Tales from the Mechanically Challenged

(Hint: I Don't Do Spreadsheets)

My brain is seriously lopsided. Of course, the way I wear my hair, with it parted off-center and all, well you'd hardly even notice. But it's lopsided alright. The right half is about nine times bigger than the left, and for those of you not familiar with cranial function, this means that while I have creativity dripping off of my earlobes; when it comes to stuff like spreadsheets and analytical calculations, I can't do diddley squat.

If you don't believe me, just ask my grandson Aidan, and he'll no doubt tell you about what happened just a few months ago, when we set out to assemble the little Lego fire truck kit he'd gotten at his fifth birthday party the day before.

Backing up a bit – there was a time when Legos, like their building block predecessors before them, came in big containers and you simply used your own imagination to construct whatever you wanted. These days you purchase a little box with a picture on the front that tells you – in no uncertain terms – what the finished product will look like, whether it be a pirate ship or a rocket or in this case a fire truck. There are precisely enough pieces – no more, no less – to build that specific object, along with explicit instructions on how to do it.

So that morning Aidan and I got down on our tummies on the floor and embarked on our little project together. We began by opening all the little cellophane packages, being careful to keep the various pieces (some so tiny you could shake them out of a salt shaker) properly sorted. In doing so I was reminded of my father who always eschewed such logical approaches to things. The best example of this was when he was "helping” my husband install an electric garage door opener at our first house. He dumped everything out of the box in a giant pile, declared the instruction manual unnecessary, and then – to my analytically-inclined husband's horror –proceeded to just "wing it”. Not surprisingly, the whole thing ended up being assembled backwards!

Alas, this mechanical ability – or lack of it – was apparently passed on to me. Case in point (I can't believe I'm telling you this…) not long ago I bought one of those little parmesan cheese graters, you know, the kind with a crank handle – only I poked the cheese down inside the drum instead putting it on the outside of the drum, which is of course where the teeth are. When I declared the gadget faulty because nothing was coming out, my husband just shook his head and sighed, "Lord, give me strength… She's her father's daughter!”

Unlike my dad, however, I do read instructions whenever they are provided. I just can't make sense of them. Such was the case with the fire truck kit. To make matters worse, the box clearly stated, "For ages 8 and up”. Do you have any idea what it's like to be stymied by a toy recommended for a second-grader?

And yet clearly I was. So futile were my attempts, in fact, that at one point sweet little Aidan, taking note of my frustration, not to mention my total ineptness, looked up at me and in the kindest, most encouraging voice he could muster said, "Grammy, all you have to do is try. You just have to try…” Little did he know, I was trying. I was trying my absolute everlasting doggone hardest! I simply couldn't figure the blasted thing out. Besides, it was easy for him to say, the little bugger. He was lucky enough to inherit his mother's correctly proportioned left cranial hemisphere.

And speaking of his mother, about that time she came into the living room and sat down on the floor beside us. After witnessing my painfully pathetic stabs at deciphering the illustrations in the diagram, she finally took pity on me (not to mention on Aidan, who was being remarkably patient) and offered to finish the project herself. It took her about ninety seconds to whip that sucker out.

Now you'd think that after a failure like that, I'd be feeling really crummy, but honestly it doesn't bother me a bit. I'm perfectly happy the way I am. Besides, I'm in good company. I once read that the reason Albert Einstein was so good at math was because he had a larger-than-average inferior parietal lobe. In other words, like me, he had a lopsided brain. His was just on the opposite side. You know, I always wondered how come he wore his hair so funny. Now I know why.

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