What I learned in the shower

How many towels do you need?” they ask at the Swiss hotel when I phone for more.

Not wanting to scare anyone, I request six. But that won’t be nearly enough. I’ve just taken a shower, and I’ve just done the math. It’s a three-day biz trip, so one shower a day means three towels for me, and at least 30 for the floor.

Why so many? The shower is semi-open—the door barely covers a fraction of the tub—so water goes everywhere, a little on you, a lot on the floor.

This partial door is popular in Europe; over the years, I’ve soaked bathrooms up and down the continent. Once in Frankfurt, the shower had no door or curtain whatsoever. That’s a 40 towel situation right there.

I don’t understand the concept of a partial door. But the truth is, I don’t want to understand. I’ve already decided it’s wrong.

But is it—or is that just my perspective? Surely there’s a rationale, just like there’s a rationale whenever someone does or says something that you don’t understand.

“Normal,” one of my psych. professors once said, means “like me,” whereas “abnormal” means “unlike me.” Sounds narrow-minded, doesn’t it? I don’t see myself as narrow-minded, and you probably don’t see yourself that way either.

But how do you react when people or situations disrupt your expectations? Do you automatically assume they’re wrong?

When you think about it, the whole point of travel is to go beyond your normal perspective—to take a fresh look.

“Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time,” (Betty Smith, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”), and you’ll transform your life.

By the end of my trip, the shower is working better. Or else I am. Not to brag, but I barely need three towels to mop the entire floor.

When I mention the shower thing to some Europeans, they tell me that American bathrooms aren’t so great either.

“Here in Europe,” one says, “the toilet fills with water after you flush, which makes sense. But in the States, the toilet starts with water, so it looks broken. It takes nerve for a European to flush a toilet like that.”

Tip: How do you challenge your perspective? You don’t need to fly to Europe and flood a bathroom.

But find a way.

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