“OOOHH dad,” I sighed. "Not the plumbing!” It was expected, though. We were vacationing with a civil engineer who marveled at the handling of waste and exalted a good system of storm and sanitary sewers. Dad was photographing drainpipes- again.
Vacations were all about sightseeing. For our family, however, a more apt title was sigh… tseeing, for Dad’s observations frequently evoked a sigh-- or a laugh or giggle. Beyond the silliness came a developing appreciation for the planning and function of things we’d otherwise take for granted. Indeed, the commonality of people everywhere defies the diversity of their transportation detail, water supply and waste disposal.
It’s all about caring for God’s gifts of humanity and nature- in infinite ways.
For our family, cities were veritable museums of specimens to be analyzed. Dad studied recycling systems. Those multi-colored bins, stacked up or placed side-by-side provided more varieties than cans of soup. Oh, that soup can belongs in the bin labeled “C,” by the way.
Roads were composite mixtures and configurations to be analyzed. Accelerating through highway curves to test the banked and scored turns or slowing to photograph a road sign; these were vacation favorites. Occasionally, dad would pull out a plastic bag and collect samples or place his pocket- size level on a curb or sidewalk.
“This pavement is uneven. It would never pass inspection in southeastern Wisconsin,” he’d declare. After all, he’d taken a leadership role in standardizing building codes in our home state.
“Always look for the nearest exit,” dad reminded us in a crowded concert hall in the Bahamas. The capacity crowd necessitated extra chairs. “A row of more than four chairs should be connected. When a crowd panics, they push chairs and trap people.” Fire safety was a priority. Sure enough, a couple of months later, hundreds died when they were trapped in a nightclub fire. I’ll bet their dads weren’t building inspectors.
I remember dad clipping strands of straw from the ceiling of a Polynesian restaurant and testing them when we got back to the hotel. The flame quickly extinguished when it touched the straw. Thank goodness; we could make plans for their 180- item lunch buffet.
A trip to Colorado included Hoover Dam, a vacation to Niagara Falls was also a study in electrical power. Harnessing God’s magnificent strength in water pressure and unleashing it to bring light into the world; it’s like a fervent prayer time energizing a Christian to do good works for a long time. A picture of a dam reminds me that the source of boundless energy remains steadfast for our return, and that we’d better arrange human elements to make the best use of that power. Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Dad.
Years later, dad took his love of lavatories to new levels. He traveled with a group of retired professionals and documented the marvels of engineering in slide shows and detailed albums. We kids, by then grown, saw even more of the world through dad’s eyes.
I’ll never forget the photographs of the odd-looking country house in Scotland. Photos from several angles showed a quaint assortment of bricks and siding, beautiful gardens and a magnificent entrance with delightful glasswork.
“Look at those gutters,” dad exclaimed, truly excited. “They collect the water and dump it into a barrel and people use that water for washing clothes.”
“Wow!,” We kids tried to muster enthusiasm. We exchanged a knowing glance- and somehow never again looked at a faucet, sink or automatic washing machine the same way.
A double page spread of parking meters and toll booths, rows of garbage cans, stoplights and intersections; these photos were interspersed between photos of dad and the other engineers posing in front of urban wonders and rural quirks.
On the next page, we viewed a comparative study of toilets across Europe. We were getting punchy. “Euro- peein,” my brother titled the page. It is indeed fascinating that toilets are shaped differently. People seem to be pretty much the same shape.
Dad’s latrine photo-collection prepared me well for a trip to Korea. “Western toilets” read the sign on several stalls. Visions of bucking broncos with saddle horns were squelched when I opened the door and saw normal porcelain thrones. The unmarked stalls had Korean squatty potties, I learned.
Many families enjoy sightseeing; seeing wondrous sights of nature. We grew to appreciate Sigh—tseeing; enjoying unique sites differently (sigh) because we see our heavenly Father’s awesome world through dad’s amazing perspective.
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