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The Consequences of Choosing the Wrong Door

Ab Karb: ladies or gents

I’m currently sitting in a roadside restaurant sipping coffee and trying to avoid eye contact with a heavily set gent on the next table. It’s quite difficult because I know he knows and I’m wondering if anything will come of it.

We’re situated is on the hug-the-mountain road somewhere between Tehran and Amol. To our left lies Mt. Damavand – Iran’s highest peak and the focus of today’s attention. Except that my goal of scaling a decent mountain in these final two days in Iran has come to naught due to a combination of mostly positive factors – the driver having sidetracked me with a series of increasingly interesting diversions. And anyway this time was set aside to think through the events of the last month and focus on some big decisions for the next – I recently passed a six year milestone at Nokia and need to figure out where and with whom to focus the next.

Don Norman’s treatise on designer’s taking responsibility for people pushing a door that was designed to be pulled was one of things that inspired me to get into this line of work, so there’s some kind of justice that it’s the current reason for my current undoing. Twenty minutes ago I was, shall we say in need, and confronted with two signs denoting access to a male and a female toilets. Yes I know I should have figured out the Persian for male and female public toilets but frankly it’s not been that kind of trip. The challenge? There were no secondary design clues – no colour coded signs, no difference in smell (ladies trust me on this) and no one walking in or out to help me decide which door to pick. For all my inherent prejudice against blue denoting male and red or pink denoting female, colour coding gender specific signs sure helps you’re struggling with Persian or any other unfamiliar script. The often re-assuring confirmation that you’ve walked into the right/wrong toilet – the presence of a urinal is wholly missing from Iran’s public toilets – the squatting position dictated as the posture of choice by the powers that be.

So I flip a mental coin and walk in, do what I need to do, clean-up and walk out. And its one the way out that I meet the heavy set gent, walking out the other door.