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FRESH OFF THE PLANE: Learning experience on tap

Motion sensor taps are pretty common now and most of us are familiar with them. Hold your hand under the tap and the water flows. Move them away and it stops. I’ve always thought them a pretty nifty invention that avoids the spread of germs. I mean who really wants to touch a tap in a public washroom that who knows who has touched with who knows what on their hands? In fact, I am actively considering getting a few of those at home – to prevent wastage of water.

But there was a time when they were relatively uncommon and many of us old-timers have stories of how we didn’t know what to do with them at first.

Our first introduction to drinking fountains was in Canada. We took our kids to a waterfront park one day and after a while, they were thirsty. I was about to go look for a vendor to get juice or water from when my wife pointed to a few kids who were drinking at a fountain. Except that there was no glass or cup. They bent over the fountain, water spouted up, and they drank.

Arre wah! What a great idea, I thought. No need for a cup or a glass. Except that it took some time to master the skill. We were used to taps under which we cupped our hands. Positioning oneself correctly was not as simple as it seems to someone who has done it all the time. Water squirted up my nose and into my eyes and my efforts were cause for much amusement for our kids.

A few years ago, on a visit to Europe, I came across a version that had me (and several others) baffled. We were on a tour of Amsterdam and at the museum, I took our son to the washroom while my wife went to the ladies’ room with our daughter. When I tried to wash my hands, however, I couldn’t get the tap to work. I looked around and the three other gentlemen there seemed to have the same problem. With a language barrier preventing an exchange of information (or frustration), we shrugged, smiled and continued to try to get the taps to oblige.

Out came another gentleman. He placed his hands under a tap and presto, water! The rest of us looked at him in amazement. How on earth did he do that? Was that, perhaps, the only tap that worked? That had to be it, I thought. We’d been struggling with malfunctioning taps!

Sensing our interest, the gentleman looked up. Then smiled and pointed to his feet. Puzzled, we looked down at the tiled floor. There, below the sink, was a specific square. When one stood on that, the taps worked. How on earth was one to know that? There were no signs showing those who might be unfamiliar with the gadget how this worked.

So, until recently, I thought I had seen them all. How much more inventive could tap manufacturers get?

I was about to find out at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto. We were there for a play and my wife decided to visit the washroom before the performance began. She came out shaking her head.

The long trough-like sink has a row of wavy pipes above, she said. No taps that one can see. She held her hands under various strategic points. No luck.

Another lady emerged from a stall, waved her hands much like someone conducting music and the pipes worked like a sprinkler, water coming out from several points along the pipes.

Now who would have thought of that, she said.

– Vinod Awasthi

What’s your story? Every newcomer, no matter how savvy or where he or she comes from, has a Fresh Off the Plane (FOP) story to share about their early days in Canada.Do you want to share your story? E-mail it to us at canadaboundimmigrant@ rogers.com.

Posted: Oct 31, 2012

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