Directional intelligence APR 19 2004
I'm one of those people that can't tell their left from their right. Well, it's not that I can't, it's just that I have to think about my left hand making an "L" shape ("L" for left) and then I'm ok. Same with geographical directions, only worse. In my brain, the concept of west is tied to the concept of left, so in order to orient myself on a map or in a physical location, I need to point myself north, think of my left (for "L") hand, associate left with west, and then east must be the opposite way. How I developed this Rube Goldbergian mechanism for wayfinding, I don't know, but it's the best I have.
A recent visit with my mom suggests that I may have inherited my directional difficulties from her. I certainly didn't get it from my dad. He could find due north with his eyes closed. As an IFR-trained pilot, he probably had to. When I was younger, he'd give me directions like, "head north for two miles, turn right at the red barn, veer southwest at the V in the road, and then turn right onto County Road D. It'll be on the east side of the road." I'd blink at him and then retrieve a scrap of paper to translate what he'd said into a consistent terminology (either L/R or NS/EW) and make a map that I could follow. I have accepted that I will never be any good with directions and compensate for my weakness with preparation (I always know where I'm going and how I'm going to get there and if I don't, I stop and think about until I do or let someone else lead the way) and repetition (the concept of "left" is almost natural now). But I still get burned occasionally and it can be frustrating.
Is anyone else out there directionally challenged?