My last dyslexic moment occurred while adjusting a lawn sprinkler.
According to the directions, you were supposed to hold the thing down while turning left until you reached the point where the rightward movement should start, lift in a counterclockwise motion . . . or something like that. I'm still not sure how I got it to work. By the time I finished I looked like I spent the day underwater.Adult dyslexics are used to such indignities. By the time you're a big person, you've worked out all kinds of elaborate strategies for dealing with the old left-right problem, but the system breaks down every so often.
Most people think of dyslexia as the simple tendency to flip letters and symbols with a few right-left problems thrown in. It's nowhere near that simple.
I've waded through a fair amount of literature on the subject over the years - much of it written in the weird and vaporous language of edu-speak that infects education writing. I've found that nobody has a sound theory of what causes it. That there is no one good way of working with it. That five people will define it five ways. And its treatment and diagnosis attract no small amount of utter crankery.
Most dyslexics learn to live with it on their own. They avoid what they can't do, think of alternate ways to do what they need to do, lean heavily on the computer spell check and gradually forget about it.
Until the next dyslexic moment hits.
Great dyslexic moment:
I was on a motor scooter in Bermuda. The island is a colony of Great Britain. The British have odd ideas about which side of the road Nature's God intended man to drive upon. Things were fine until I saw oncoming traffic in the distance.
Was I driving on the correct side of the road? I had no idea. I started to pull over, but didn't know which side to pull over to. In my panic, I looked at the speedometer and see a huge red arrow above it. "KEEP LEFT" it said above the arrow.
The arrow saved me. No, not the words. In a dyslexic moment you have no concept of left and right. None. There's only That Way and its inverse, The Other Way.
Regularly checking the red arrow worked until I came to a traffic circle. Navigating it entailed driving counterclockwise in a circle until you turn right onto any one of four roads. I could do no more than follow the car ahead of me and take the road it took.
Fortunately, it went someplace very nice, an idyllic coastal park. One I would not have visited otherwise.
Dyslexic travelers are used to visiting new places unexpectedly.
Another great dyslexic moment:
I'm driving a rental truck and backing into a driveway. Backing very slowly. I see two friends in the mirror and they're pointing the way I'm supposed to turn. Except it's in a mirror, so it's reversed. Except I have to turn the wheel the opposite way to make the turn while backing up. Except they are shouting, "No, the other way!"
Panic is a perfectly reasonable response in such cases and the damage was slight.
Adult dyslexics are used to operating without certain knowledge of left and right, "b" or "d," clockwise and counterclockwise. (The mnemonic, righty-tighty, lefty-loosey, is helpful to the dyslexic handyman puzzling out the latter.)
I'm convinced that certain attitudes necessarily follow from this.
Of these, a distrust of absolutes is the strongest. When one doubts the concept of left and right on a regular basis, it creates a habit of mind that is not given to trusting blindly in other people's abstractions.
Nearly as strong is the ability to take confusion in stride. It's what you're used to. No biggie.
Well-meaning people often ask me how on earth a dyslexic would end up writing a newspaper column. The answer is simple: If you don't know left from right, you are off to the right start for column writing.
If you can't follow the steps given in class - or, for that matter, in the nicely printed lawn-sprinkler instructions - you must find your own steps. Sometimes your steps don't work. Sometimes they lead you to unexpected discoveries.
And announcing small discoveries is what column writers are supposed to do.