May 30, 2014

Three skills

I think I am an intelligent person, but I am not gifted in spatial logic. I have real trouble figuring out those flipped around shapes where you have to choose which ones are the same. I have to turn a map the way I am going.

Many years ago I went backpacking with my cousin J and her friend J (we called ourselves Triple J, ha ha). The friend J was a wizz with maps. Whenever we arrived in a new city, she could look at the map and immediately know which way to go. My cousin J, like me, has a terrible sense of direction, but she has one weird gift, that she always knows which way is north. I only know which way is north from two places: at my house, and driving up North Road.

While travelling through Turkey with J and J, we went by bus to Canakkale. The road followed the coast and it is really beautiful. At one point I was unable to work out which direction we were travelling in and started poring over the map laboriously trying to figure it out. It was a genuine epiphany to me when good-with-maps J pointed out that the sea was on our right so we were travelling in the direction where the sea was on the right side of the road on the map.  I'm serious. And this knowledge has been seriously helpful to me ever since.

Apart from school geometry and map reading, there are three other skills I have struggled with. I have finally mastered them all, but not without great hardship and difficulty.

1. Knowing which way to twist a thing to open it

The key to mastering this valuable skill is one small phrase which I learned from a bartender I worked with many years ago: LEFTY LOOSEY RIGHTY TIGHTY.  Oh, the other people there laughed at this bartender, aged 23, intoning seriously "lefty loosey, righty tighty", but that phrase has been INVALUABLE to me I tell you.

2. Knowing which way to put the batteries in

I finally decided to teach myself this and remember it forever, just LAST YEAR. I don't think about positive and negative and such, I just remember the flat end goes against the spring. YES!

3. Knowing which way to turn when I step out of the elevator at work

This one has been the hardest. I spent eleven years in my last work building, and I memorized which way to turn coming out of the elevator after about nine years.

I've been in my current work building one and a half years, but I'm getting older and I don't want to struggle with this another seven years, so I've made a real effort.

My problem is, I overlook the obvious. Because I can't do something, I assume it must be really intricate and clever (instead of considering that maybe I'm just thick).  So initially I started by trying to keep the spatial logic of the building in my head. I'd walk up to the elevator bank, and consider which way I was facing in the lobby in relation to the street outside, then picture in my head where the street was in relation to our office window upstairs, and in relation to the elevators on our floor.

But then JUST THIS MORNING while composing this post in my head, I got into the lifts and stepped out at my floor, and suddenly realised that if I get into an elevator on my right, then I turn right when I get out. If I get into an elevator on my left, then I turn left when I get out.

As you can no doubt immediately work out, this means that when I walk into our building and into the elevator bank, I am already facing the direction of my office.  Which means even my initial mental mapping method should have been easy.

But it wasn't.

How is your spatial logic?


  1. Actually I'm a human homing pigeon....we go out for a weekend drive and get lost on purpose just so I can direct us back home.

  2. I have zero directional ability. When I go up a hill, I assume I am heading north. Fortunately Mrs. C is a walking GPS.

  3. My directional sense is good. My partners is not. And he persists in arguing despite decades of failure.
    Opening lids? Not so much. I will remember that phrase - though it could cause problems. Left or right doesn't come easily to me.
    And my infuriating father did not help by telling my left hand was the one where the thumb was on the right.

    1. Your father's completely unhelpful advice made me laugh! I have a friend who has trouble remembering left and right and she does it by holding up her hands with thumb out: the line formed by index finger and thumb on the left hand makes an L.

  4. I like reading maps but honestly I am not gifted person in spatial logic.

    1. I like maps too even though I'm not good at them

  5. I've never given much thought to my spatial logic, but I guess it must be pretty good. I've always been able to do all of those things without too much thinking about it.
    9 years to work out the elevator direction??

    1. It sounds like yours is pretty good. Mine is hopeless! Nine years: it wasn't so much nine years to work it out, as that I would work it out and then forget it. If I am walking down the street and I walk into a shop, guaranteed when I come out I will start walking the wrong way.



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