Left and Right or Right and Left

There's this gas station at the corner of Werk Road and Glenmore Avenue I walk up to sometimes to purchase my cigarettes. I told the girl behind the counter what brand I wanted, and she pointed to the rack behind her. "This one?" she asked. "No," I said.

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There’s this gas station at the corner of Werk Road and Glenmore Avenue that I walk up to sometimes to purchase my worst vice. We’re talking cigarettes here.

I don’t go there very often because they’re a little high on their prices, but on that morning I was almost out of smokes and found it necessary to make the walk.

I told the girl behind the counter what brand of cigarettes I wanted, and she pointed to the rack of cigarette packs on the wall behind her.

“This one?” she asked.

“No,” I said. “Go to your left.” She went to her right instead.

“No, to your left, the other way.”

After several seconds, she figured it out and I got my pack of smokes. While leaving the gas station, I thought to myself, “If I asked her if she was left-handed or right-handed, would she be able to tell me?”

Entering my neighborhood, I ran into Cathy, who was out for a morning walk. We talked for a while. I’ve known her for over a year now and, in the chats we’ve had, I can tell her political thinking is to the left. Maybe that’s why we get along so well.

After I got back home, I was curious as to the real differences between left and right politics. I turned on my computer and went to Wikipedia.

Wikipedia says people to the left are progressives, social liberals and social democrats, among other things. Meanwhile, people to the right are conservatives, reactionaries and monarchists, among other things.

These distinctions made me think of another neighbor I know, Charlie.

In talks I’ve had with Charlie — and there haven’t been many — I can tell he’s conservative and very uptight. That’s how I view those on the right: uptight. That’s not from Wikipedia.

But Charlie plays the guitar, and he’s pretty good. I sometimes hear him play when he sits out on his front porch. While his politics might be to the right, when it comes to music he’s using the left side of his brain.

The right side of our brain is more “big picture,” more focused, more Spock-like, while the left side of our brain is more creative and freeing. I looked this up on Wikipedia, too.

I’ve been writing now for more than 13 years and consider it left-brain stuff because it’s creative. Before that, I was an accountant for over 30 years, which is probably right-brain stuff, or it should be. I mean, who wants a “creative” accountant?

Around noontime, left and right or right and left thoughts still occupied my mind.

Heading downtown an hour or so later, I was on the No. 6 bus making its way down Queen City Avenue. A young lady approached the driver and asked him where to get off to get to the Kroger store.

“It’s a bit of a walk,” he said, “but when we get up to Ferguson, you need to start walking to your right.”

“This way?” she said, pointing to her left.

“No, to your right, to your right,” the bus driver practically yelled into the girl’s left ear.

Less than a minute later when she got off the bus, she thanked the bus driver and crossed Queen City Avenue, going left on Ferguson — the wrong way. The bus driver rolled his eyes.

This made me wonder if the girl didn’t know the difference between left and right or maybe she was thinking with the left side of her brain and was distracted. Or maybe she had something to do on the left side of Ferguson before making a right to get to Kroger. Or maybe she was deaf in her left ear. I guess I’ll never know.

I had a busy afternoon downtown — going up and down sidewalks to my left and to my right — running a few errands and meeting up with some friends.

I had a late lunch with a singer/songwriter friend who obviously uses the left side of her brain when it comes to her talent. She keeps track of her own bookings, revenue and expenses, so she must have a pretty good right brain, too.

Later on, I had drinks with another column writer who’s more conservative than I am. He’s to the right of my way of thinking, but at the bar he was sitting to my left. Our bartender was goofy, constantly messing up our drink orders. It’s like her left hand didn’t know what her right hand was doing.

Now early evening, I went to the CVS Pharmacy on Race Street to pick up cheaper cigarettes than that gas station offers at Werk and Glenmore. I told the cashier the brand I wanted, needing two packs.

Going to the rack behind her, she pointed at some cigarettes that weren’t my brand and said, “These?”

“No,” I said, “to your right.” She proceeded to go to her left.

She finally got it right, but my day was ending as it had started — people not knowing the difference between their right and left or their left and right.

On the bus heading back home, I started to wonder if it’s a common thing these days. There must be a medical term for this condition or some kind of definition for people not knowing the difference between right and left besides — I don’t know — “being stupid.”

I thought Wikipedia could shed some light on this situation for me. It didn’t.

CONTACT LARRY GROSS: [email protected]

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