What You See Isn’t Always What You Get

I’ve been traveling a lot this year. For instance, I haven’t been home for a complete week since July.

That means that for the last five months I’ve seen lots of hotel rooms, restaurants and airports.


And here’s the thing. After a while, even a life of constant shifting and change becomes ordinary. Even though I was almost never in the same hotel, restaurant or airport for more than a day or so, I got used to certain things.

Like for instance, the paper towel dispensers in the men’s rooms.

At home, when I wash my hands I reach over to my left and there’s a clean hand towel, nicely folded on the towel bar by my loving wife.

Haven’t seen much of those hand towels this last season or so.

Nope, what I’ve seen instead is a bunch of these black plastic contraptions on the wall by the sink that dispense paper towels. Some of them have a little seeing eye in the front, and when you wave your wet hands around, flipping water all over the place, they burp out a stingy little towel.

So you have to wave your hands several times to get enough towels to dry your hands.

And it takes the towel gadget a few seconds to realize that you want another little piece of towel, and a while later it finally gives you one. And by then your hands are mostly dry anyway.

Or there’s a button on the front or on the side.

Which is usually messy because everyone with wet hands has had to press this same button.

So I’m in this men’s room – I don’t even remember whether it was an airport or a restaurant – but I was at the sink with wet hands, already irritated by the machine I was gonna have to plead with to get my hands dried off.

I wave around, and nothing happens.

Maybe it didn’t see my hands.

I wave them closer. Nothing. Then I wave them under the front of the place where the towels come out. Still nothing. So I wave my hands right in front of the damn thing. Nothing.

Grrr. IS IT BLIND???

Okay. I see a little silver round thing on the side. Could be a button. I push it.

Nope. It was a rivet.

I look over the box carefully, and push on a plate with the trademark and another thing that turns out to be another rivet. Nothing.

So then, being a hotshot engineer and an experienced traveler, I examine the slot where the towels come out. Maybe I can just pull one out even if the machine’s broken.

I see the edge of a towel sticking out. I pull it, and it pops right out! Wow! So I pull out another one. And another one!

It works! Just like the old-fashioned towel dispensers of the good old days.

Turns out that’s just exactly what it was. An old-fashioned towel gadget that just looked like one of the new ones.

No buttons. No seeing eye. Just a slot where you reach out and pull out a paper towel, or a bunch of them if you want.

Sometimes, you should just look at things with “new eyes.”

And that seems especially true when you go into a situation thinking that you already know how things are.

So take care and keep exploring your world — with new eyes.

You never know what you’ll stumble across.



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