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Recently I spent a week working in London.  Whenever I’m there, I worry a few minutes each day about death.

“How did he die?” people would ask about me.

“Oh,” someone would say, “he was crossing the street and looked left instead of right.”

Do you ever look the wrong way?  And we’re not just talking about crossing the street.

You can, for example, look without seeing.  For example, if you’re speaking to a group, you can look at the audience as a whole, but never really see (or connect with) individuals.

Or you can look at a familiar colleague or an old friend, but never really see them because you’re too stuck in past memories, or outdated perceptions, about who they are.

My wife claims I can look in the refrigerator for just about anything, but never see it.

“We’re out of mustard,” I say.

“No,” my wife says, “it’s right there, on the door.”

And it is, although just seconds ago, it wasn’t.  Apparently, things in our refrigerator move constantly.

At the London office, the refrigerator had “British semi-skim milk.”  In plain sight.  If I put something like that in our home frig, it would immediately vanish.

But travel makes you look and see.  It pushes you out of your time zone, past jet lag, and right into the here-and-now.  That’s good, since so much brain activity is triggered by visual stimuli.

Back home, it’s easy to stop seeing and fall into a mindless routine.  Everything looks familiar.

The truth is, I love mindless routines.  Even in London, I had one.  Before work each day, I went running over the Millennium bridge (photo above) and then turned left.  That route takes you along the river, through short tunnels, and down narrow, cobbled streets.

Turning left became comfortable.  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, I turned left.  Finally, on Thursday, I went right.  (I’d like to report that right was better; it wasn’t.)

Unfortunately, you can’t go abroad every time you need to wake up.  But you can break routine.

The other day, back in Boston, I was driving home, using the traffic app, Waze.  We were almost home, when Waze said something surprising.  “In 1,000 feet, turn right on Sunset Road.”

Really?  I’d never heard of that road.

“Yes, turn right, you idiot,” I imagined Waze saying, “and stop questioning my judgment.”

So I turned right.  And I saw something new.

Tip:  Every now and then, break routine and turn right.  See what you see.

© Copyright 2018 Paul Hellman.  All rights reserved.

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