Archive for the ‘paper money’ Category

Seeing things new again … wake up!

September 30, 2007

Human beings are so adaptable. Strange and unfamiliar things are quickly adapted to, and then their strangeness and unfamiliarity become invisible, i.e. we become anesthetized to them. But once in a while we experience things that cause us to “wake up.”

When we travel to foreign lands, we inevitably experience “new” things as strange and awkward. The money doesn’t make sense, the street signs are in the wrong places, and the toilet paper is all wrong.

An even more enlightening experience, though, is to accompany a foreign traveler through your own country, for through the foreigner’s eyes you will once again perceive the strangeness and awkwardness of your own culture.

Show a Swiss visitor American paper money for the first time. You will invariably hear, “But they’re all the same size? How do blind people tell them apart?” Your response will be an embarrassed silence, for unless you’re blind yourself, you’ve never thought about money in that way. Never? Well, hardly ever. Not, at least, since you were a child.

The next response of the Swiss visitor will be, “And they’re all of the same color! Don’t people make lots of mistakes in making change?” Again, embarrassed silence as you contemplate how many times you’ve had experiences of being shortchanged, or longchanged, when a five was mistaken for a ten.

Take some object that you handle every day – a shoe, a shirt, a fork, a car door, a toothbrush, or any one of a thousand others. Set yourself the exercise of “seeing” it from the point of view of someone from another country who has never seen one before. Then try using it with your eyes tightly closed. Imagine that you are one-fourth your present size and trying to handle this object for the first time. What happens if you cannot read, or your manual dexterity is not well developed?

Are Your Lights On? by Donald C. Gause and Gerald M. Weinberg