True confessions: I’ve never been good at the whole left vs. right thing. I was one of those kids who found the left-hand-makes-an-L trick to be a lifesaver. Okay, truer confessions: I still do, and I pity similarly confused folks who grow up in languages where the word for “left” doesn’t start with an L. How do they ever figure it out?

A lesser-known side effect of consular work is to exacerbate this confusion. When you’re walking people through the process of getting their fingerprints taken and you say “put your left hand on the green light” you demonstrate with your right hand, because the applicant will mirror what you do and use their left. Then when you want to print their right hand you raise your left hand. Works like a charm.

However, raising the left hand when I say right and the right when I say left over and over again, day after day, week after week, is completely destroying any tenuous grasp I ever had on what the two sides of my body are called. Be warned: I can no longer be trusted to give accurate directions. When trying to explain where to turn I will say whichever of those two words first comes to mind, and it will probably be “left” because that’s the hand we always fingerprint first. Stick with GPS, or ask somebody else.