I’ve always been a keen advocate of learning from experience.  I call it ‘everyday learning’ to distinguish it from ‘formal learning’ when, say, you’re studying, listening to a talk or on a course.  Most people claim to be learning all the time (‘you learn something new every day’) and that’s undoubtedly true at a subliminal level.  However, I’m always sceptical when, for example, politicians claim that ‘lessons have been learnt’.  I always want them to provide specific examples of what has been learnt and what is being done better, or differently, as a consequence.  In my working life I often used to ask managers what they’d learnt from a particular experience and refused to be fobbed off with anything vague and platitudinous.

Last week I had an experience that was alarming at the time and, in retrospect, amusing. 

My wife and I were staying for a couple days in a hotel in the Cotswolds.  We had a bathroom with the shower in the bath.  On the first day I managed the perilous business of working out how to turn on the shower, how to regulate the temperature, how to use the hinged glass so that the bathroom wasn’t flooded.  I even managed to work out which was shampoo and which body gel despite absurdly small lettering on the containers (the manufacturer obviously assumed I’d wear my spectacles in the shower).   Despite stepping into a bath to have a shower being treacherous (why are bathrooms such dangerous places with slippery, wet surfaces and unforgiving sharp corners/edges everywhere?) I managed it without mishap. 

The next day after a damp outing to Stow-on-the-Wold, I decided to have a bath.  I haven’t had a bath for many years but I recalled how nice it was to wallow in hot water with lots of bubbles.  So, even though I know showers are less bad for the planet, I put the plug in the bath, ran the taps and added the bubble stuff.  I got into the bath and lay on my back thinking, ‘I must do this more often’.

So far so good.  I expect you can guess what happened next.

The time came to get out of the bath.  As the water drained away, I realised there was nothing to hold onto to help me get out,  just the taps and, much higher up and out of reach, the shower.  For awhile I struggled, stubbornly refusing to admit defeat.  I tried to turn over so that I could kneel, but I’m tall and the bath was narrow.  I tried to pull myself up using the taps (fearing I might rip them off).  Absurdly, I even toyed with the idea of refilling the bath hoping the water might magically make me more buoyant (physics was never one of my strengths).

Eventually I had to face up to my plight: I could not get out of that bath.

Fortunately my wife was in the room next door and, swallowing my pride, I admitted I was stuck.  She, of course, thought the sight of her pink husband sitting in an empty bath, very funny (so would I have done had our roles been reversed).   The solution was to put, first a pillow, then two fat cushions, under my bum so that I could get my legs over the edge of the bath.

What have I learnt from this experience?  Only have a bath again if:

  • The bath is wide and has grab rails on both sides (better still, an overhead crane with clear operating instructions).
  • My mobile phone is within reach.
  • My wife (even someone else, I’m not choosy) is in the room next door.
  • I have not locked the bathroom door.
  • The bedroom has a plentiful supply of pillows and cushions.

I think it might also be prudent to warn the hotel staff, perhaps even random fellow guests, that I’m about to take a bath and in the event of my failing to appear after, say, an hour or so, to call the fire brigade. 

Or might the lesson be, never to take a bath again?  Just stick to showers.  

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