Why don't we have that here?

Bill Altaffer of Mammoth Lakes, California, said he once saw a paramedic ambulance motorcycle in London. The medic could arrive at the scene of an emergency quickly even in heavy traffic. He then suggested that ITN readers write in about great ideas that they’ve seen overseas. Responses are shown below.

If you have something to add, write to Why Don’t We Have That Here?, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818, or e-mail editor@intltravelnews.com (include the address at which you receive ITN). In writing about a clever invention, system or convenience overseas, please add where you saw it and when you were there.

At the money-exchange booth at Narita Airport, they have reading glasses for customers to use. I also noticed this at banks throughout Japan.

I noticed, too, that at the entrances to train stations there were tissues along with eyeglass cleaner in spray bottles for the public to use.

Barbara Kobata

Van Nuys, CA

During our trip to Japan in October-November 2006, I walked around asking myself, “Why don’t we do that?” Among numerous examples, like clean subway cars with windows you can see out of, streets without litter, walls without graffiti, and subway/train stations with staff who actually look for people needing help, there are two examples using basic technology that America could well imitate.

Why don’t we have escalators that don’t run until someone approaches, when the electric eye triggers them to start?

Why no bathroom mirrors that don’t steam up? When you step out of a shower at the New Otani Hotel in Tokyo, there is a huge square section over the bathroom sink that remains totally clear due to heat behind the glass.

Of course, you could write a book on Japan’s toilets.

Arnold Simon

Livingston, NJ

I don’t know the answer to the question, but the “that” is easy: bidets.

Tokyo has these marvelous toilets with heated seats and sprays. It would be delightful to have them in this country.

But when I was there in 2000 the thing that knocked me out were the automatically opening doors, especially on taxis. When loaded down with luggage or shopping, I found this a true delight. Of course, I live in New York, where if a driver opened a door for you you’d swoon with shock.

Tokyo’s taxis even have little white antimacassars, and the drivers wear white gloves!

By the way, Tokyo’s taxis were very expensive; we didn’t take them very often.

Barbara Malley

New York, NY

My wife, Ginny, and I were impressed to see grocery cashiers, particularly in Vienna, Austria, seated while they checked customers out.

Jim Walker

Fredericksburg, TX

At Helsinki’s Vantaa Airport in 1997, the gate attendant glided noiselessly up to her station on a simple, foot-powered, 2-wheel scooter like I had in the fourth grade back in 1944. I suppose it was more like today’s Razor scooters, actually.

What I wish all airports had is a red line painted on the floor five feet away from the baggage carousel with instructions for people to stay behind it until ready to pull their bag off the conveyor. Those who disregard this concept now run the risk of banged knees as I retrieve my bag!

Irv Smith

Missouri City, TX

Getting ready to return to the States, I was relaxing outside at “my” coffee house (a generous use of the term) at Place de Hotel de Villa in Bastia, Corsica, France, in May 2005.

All of a sudden a shiny new Honda motor scooter roared up in front with a young city worker in the saddle. He was touring the area with a vacuum tube somehow hooked up to the engine, sucking up cigarette butts (of which there is always a plethora in France) and small pieces of paper from between the paving stones and around the bases of the sycamore trees.

Each time he had a miscreant in sight, he would gun the engine to develop the necessary updraft in the tube. With the number of trees in the area plus his youthful enthusiasm, it was a project hardly designed to add to the peace of the early morning, efficiency and job creation notwithstanding.

George Dehnel

San Diego, CA

While living in Luanda, Angola, Africa, in 1974-75, we rented an unfurnished, rather large 2-story house that had bottled gas delivered periodically for the tankless hot-water heaters. At that time, I had never seen or even heard of tankless hot water, but this house had only that in all three bathrooms with tubs or showers.

A heating unit measuring about 8"x8"x4" was on the wall in each room to superheat the water instantly as soon as and for as long as one turned on the hot water tap. I thought it was ingenious and marvelous!

My husband, Bud, looked into getting one for our “cabin” in the States, but he was told that for safety reasons they were not allowed. He said they have them in Portugal, France, Switzerland and Japan.

Fleur B. Hampton

Estes Park, CO

Back in the late 1980s we went to London to visit friends for two weeks. The first night there, I was helping our friend Judy wash dishes; she was using something called Fairy Liquid (www.fairy-dish.com).

I reached over to take the first plate and noticed that she had not rinsed off the soapsuds. I asked her how she wanted me to rinse and she said, “You don’t need to rinse with Fairy Liquid. It’s magic!”

I went crazy for that dish soap.

Myrna Donnelly

Lake Charles, LA

In Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada, the traffic lights for red, green and yellow are shaped, respectively, in the form of a square, a circle and a diamond for people who have difficulty in distinguishing colors.

Dick Parrot

Mill Valley, CA

I was flying with my wife and son from Seoul, Korea, to Fukuoka, Japan, en route to Expo ’70 in Osaka. After checking into the hotel, we were schlepping our luggage down the corridor to our room when I noticed a vending machine standing in an alcove. Illuminated in little windows were cans of refrigerated Japanese beer: Asahi, Sapporo, etc.

Curious, I went back later, dropped some yen coins in the slot and received my cold reward.

Beer machines!

John C. Stickler

Murrieta, CA

In some European countries, the waiters each carry a small portable credit card machine so that your bill can be paid right there and the card is not taken away.

It is very comforting to not see your credit card disappear for 10 or 15 minutes as it does in our country.

Phyllis Mitchell

Corona, CA

Throughout France, waiters bring your check along with a handheld wireless unit. Your credit card is swiped and the transaction completed immediately, eliminating several kinds of possible fraud and saving time. WDWHTH?

Les Lenzner

Poway, Ca

“Why don’t we have that?” That’s exactly what my husband and I said when we were in South Korea in November of 2005 and saw that our guide received an immediate cell phone message whenever his credit card was used. And I mean immediate! As he was signing the slip for the gas he had bought, his cell phone rang to tell him the station and the amount.

We could eliminate a lot of credit card fraud if we had this technology in the U.S.

Marcia Brandes

Atlanta, GA