23:51 Wed 25 Jul 2007. Updated: 16:24 11 Feb 2015
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The flight had been a long one. My legs and back were sore, and complained when I put my bag down to use the sink. The restroom was relatively busy, and I’d had to wait for a sink to become free.

It was one of the ‘no-touch’ sinks, where the water just runs when you put your hands under it. I put my hands under it.


I waved my hands around a little. Still nothing. I tried higher and lower, but no water came forth.

I pushed my bag sideways with my foot and moved over to the next sink. Same actions, same lack of results. Another man stepped up to the sink I’d just been using and washed his hands.

When the next sink over freed up, I tried that. No success. I stepped back and waited for the man using the first one I’d tried to leave, and then moved to that one again. But it didn’t work. The other sinks also worked both before and after I tried them.

I tried touching parts of the faucet, rubbing my hands together, faster movements, keeping my hands still, covering my belt with one hand in case it was somehow reflecting something. The tap stayed resolutely off.

None of the others in the room paid me any attention. There was a sense of transience, and everyone wanted to remain in their own bubble.

The other bubbles were moving smoothly through the restroom, but I was not. The machines governing the process refused to deal with me, and I could sense the combination of slight irritation and increased bubble thickness from those around me who noticed I wasn’t following the same steps as everyone else. The room was full of unconnected strangers, yet I had managed to become an outsider.

(300 words)

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