Tag Archives: things I don’t know how to do

Things I don’t know how to do, IV: signal apology from inside a car

The other day, in the middle of making a left turn from a four-way stop, I realized I’d jumped out ahead of the woman who had the right of way.  Aiming to signal an apology, I touched my index finger to my head (“I’m aware I did that”) and then to my heart (“and I feel bad about it.”)

Why did I do that?  Is there even the slightest chance this gesture was interpreted correctly by the other driver?  More generally, why don’t we have a consensus gestural shorthand for “I’m sorry about the improper traffic maneuver I just executed?”  Or do we have one, and I just don’t know it?

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Things I don’t know how to do, III

Get into a locked airplane bathroom.  Actually, this is something I didn’t know how to do until yesterday, when a flight attendant showed me the trick; the “vacant/occupied” sign is actually on a hinge, and if you flip it up you get access to the locking slider underneath.

Perhaps you think this is a technique you have no need for.  And if you don’t travel with a small child who likes fiddling with things, you’re probably right.

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Things I don’t know how to do, II


When you swipe a card with a magnetic stripe, like a hotel cardkey, or a credit card at a gas pump, there’s typically a little diagram that shows you the orientation in which you’re supposed to orient the card. I cannot read this diagram. Every single time, I have to try each of the two possibilities to see which one successfully swipes. Even while writing this post, I had to think for a minute to convince myself that the number of possibilities which actually send the magnetic stripe through the reader is two and not four. This is why it seems strange to me that people like to use ability to mentally rotate three-dimensional objects as a proxy for math ability in kids. (Of course, there is some evidence for this point of view, which some people might give more weight than my N=1 self-study.)

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