I used to go rafting a lot, usually starting just about this time every year. In a typical year, as much as there is such a thing, the Gunnison River starts gathering speed and volume in May, crests the first weekend in June, and by early July is running so much lower that a raft trip from Garlic Mike’s to McCabe Lane takes twice as long as it did one month earlier.
One year I was on a Memorial weekend run with three or four friends, and I knew we were coming up on a downed cottonwood.”Okay, we need to go right,” I commanded from the back of my raft, and proceeded to direct my crew through the fast-moving water past the hazard: “Go right! More to the right!”
To my immense satisfaction, our boat went through exactly on the line I wanted and I was feeling really good about it. We hit slower water and in the calm my friend Sandi said, “You realize that was your left.”
I don’t know why, but I struggle constantly with right and left, and if you get this blog in your inbox, I did it again just yesterday. If you read it off the internet, at toulouse81230.blog, you probably were fine, because shortly after I hit “publish,” which automatically sends to followers (including myself — have I mentioned that I’m my own follower? I don’t even know how I signed up to follow myself, but such is the existential nature of my relationship with technology), I realized my error and corrected it.
So, for those of you who got the wrong version, the picture of the laundry room should have indicated that it was the LEFT-hand corner that was causing me fits. [Fits have been solved, by the way. We got code clearance to shrink the access hatch, so I went back to True Value and bought the cabinet, which I will put along the north wall, which is on the RIGHT side of yesterday’s picture.]
I don’t know why I have so much trouble with left and right. I was not one of those kids who couldn’t remember which hand to put over my heart for the daily Pledge of Allegiance, but to this day when someone wants me to go right or left, I have to stop to look at my hands.
I don’t recall who taught me this trick, or when, but it’s been about the only thing that’s saved me: if you hold your left hand out with the thumb out, it makes an L. L is for left — that’s your left hand. The backwards L stands for “right.”
So when my chiropractor — whom I’ve noticed has trouble remembering which of my legs or arms is which depending on whether I’m facing toward or away from him — tells me to turn to my right or left, I have to put my hands in front of me to see which L is forwards and which is backwards. He’s trainable, though: now he adds a direction: “Turn right toward the window.”
Back in my rafting heyday, after the incident where everyone did what I wanted but not what I said, I started using a Magic Marker to put a big L along the web between index finger and thumb of my left hand. It worked so well I contemplated getting an actual tattoo of the L, but when it comes to tattoos and piercings I’m very long on contemplation and short on action.
You would think, during my rafting years, that the paddle would have been enough: my left hand always capped the top of the paddle while my right gripped midway between the top and the blade. Top of paddle = left. But that was never enough help.
You might also think, with this much trouble discerning left and right, that I would be directionally challenged in general, but I find I do better there than many people. Often in conversation, people will reference something up the road or down it, and frequently they point in the diametric opposite of the direction they mean. They’ll be talking about something up north while pointing down south, or fingering the east when they’re indicating something that lies west.
When Lynn first got to Gunnison, she had a horrible time when it came to leaving. She’d turn toward Montrose when we were going to Denver, and vice versa. I couldn’t tell her whether she was turning right or left, but I did know it wasn’t the way we wanted to go.
So we all, it seems, comes with our little quirks and misdirections. The important thing is that our friends understand and tolerate this about us, and they grasp when to pay attention to us and when to focus on what they know we want rather than what we say. It’s the right — or do I mean left? — thing to do.