Friday, April 29, 2005

Try a Little Cleanliness

Half of the secret of resistance to disease is cleanliness; the other half is dirtiness.

People are always washing their hands of this or that. I don’t care what they wash their hands of –- I just want them to wash their hand WITH SOAP. I admit it; I am a germ-a-phobe. I won’t touch handrails on escalators and stairs. I use a paper towel when possible to pick up the nozzle of the gasoline pump. I didn’t like using Los Angeles’ subway system because it seemed to me it was an underground Petri dish of seasonal viruses (I also didn’t appreciate the overzealous traffic cops on my way to the transit system).

In the third grade, our teacher would single kids out for not covering their mouths when they yawned, coughed, or sneezed. I will usually say something to the person who coughs or sneezes and does not cover their face, but there are too many yawners to make an issue of that. Certainly their dentists may appreciate the clear view of their teeth and dental work, but I don’t.

During these informative years, most kids were supposed to be taught to wash their hands with soap. However, I am sure parents didn’t set a good example. It only takes a few seconds, so I am always appalled at the people who brazenly leave the restroom without washing their hands. It does not matter their status in the corporate world nor their financial standing; I have seen all stripes exit the lavatory sans washing and thus leaving the bacteria firmly ensconced within the grooves of their fingerprints. Then they go about their business of tapping on keyboards, opening doors and shaking hands. I wish we just bowed like the Japanese.

The other day, I warned a friend about someone who does not wash his hands nor uses soap if he does wash, no matter the bathroom function. My friend was introduced to him for the first time as this notorious non-washer walked out of the restroom. When the coast was clear my friend immediately ran back to wash again.

Through observation and conversation, I have concluded that there are four types of bathroom hand washers:

Non-Washers. Through my observations, this is the largest group. These people will simply relieve their intestines small or large and not wash their hands. In an office environment they will run water over their hands if they have to, but mostly they just dash out. In a public restroom they will just leave and not care if you spy them skipping out because most likely you will never see them again, unless you end up next to them on the plane.

Pre-Washers. This group belongs to the “nothing I do is foul” self-centered species. Their genital area is clean to them, therefore they must wash their hands because of everything they have touched prior. They don’t want another’s germs on their package.

Double-Washers. This is a rare tribe in my book. A DW is someone that encompasses the pre-washer mentality as well as being a bit of a germ-a- phobe. If they are willing to wash, I salute them.

Routine Washers. They wash their hands after using the facilities, but it seems for naught because they open the door with their bare hands after Non-Washer used the same door handle to exit. I turn on the faucet to wash my hands, upon completion, I grab three paper towels, two for drying and one to turn the water facet off. I use the same two towels to open the bathroom door, and then I fold it over again to open the hallway door and then toss it into a nearby trashcan.

Many acquaintances and friends think I have gone overboard. To me, an extreme is an old supervisor who used baby wipes on her dog’s paws after letting her dog out back. I just don’t allow our dog in the house.

Think about this the next time you skip soap. According to studies done by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

  • Only about two thirds of American adults wash after using the toilet - women significantly more often than men. Fecal matter carries a variety of serious infectious diseases.
  • One of four adults does not wash after changing a baby's diaper - creating a high risk of giving the caregiver and other children infectious diarrhea and other diseases.
  • Fewer than half of us wash after handling our pets or cleaning up after them.
  • Just one in three wash after sneezing or coughing.
  • Not even one in five wash after handling money, a major carrier of disease germs.
  • In one study, children who washed their hands four times a day missed 51 percent fewer school days due to upset stomach and 24 percent fewer days due to respiratory illness than those who washed less.
  • One in three E.coli outbreaks is caused by poor personal hygiene (hand washing) by food handlers.


Phillip said...

I'm curious, are you often sick? Would you ascribe your sickness/health to your paper towel regimen?

Attila said...

You must be a geezer like me if you had an elementary school teacher warn kids not to sneeze without covering their mouths. That's out now. Way, way out. In first grade, we had to show our hands in the morning and were graded for cleanliness, with a chart and these stickers: Ivory soap bar, yellow circle, red circle.

I do think this can be taken to extremes, and to some extent dirt and germs give immunity to illness. I'm careful to wash, but I don't hold the doorknob in paper towel. Then again, I've been known to eat food that's fallen on the floor. And I'm rarely sick. I've missed only 2 or 3 days of work for sickness in over 20 years.

The Misanthrope said...

As much as I hate to admit it and depending on how you look at it, yes I am approaching geezer status or am one. In this case, I do look at the glass as half full. Althought there is no where to go but down, so it really is almost half empty.

I had one cold and a one-day flu, but I attribute the flu to the subway. You do have to give your immune system something to work with, which is why I picked that particularly quote for this piece.

B2 said...

Per the Misanthrope's comment on the glass being half full -- he does think it's half full; he thinks it's half full of germs.

On The Mark said...

When the Misanthrope vists my house I have to put out a "Randy" towel. I know I should put out a "Randy" soap, too, but I always forget. I keep a clean house, but I do have two dogs and two cats that roam freely (although the dogs aren't allowed on the furniture).

bitchphd said...

A few germs now and again build up the immune system. Relax, people.

(And yes, I cover my mouth when I sneeze, cough, or yawn, and I always wash my hands after using the toilet, and so does Pseudonymous Kid, thank you very much, but for heaven's sake, it's not as though we have to worry about Ebola. Yet.)

Teresa said...

There is a related category that should be touched on here, which I think occurs mainly among women:the foot-flusher. This person is trying to avoid germs by not touching anything in the restroom, but in the process makes things more filthy. I'm not sure whether foot-flushers are mostly non-washers (don't touch anything) or washers (to get the doorknob, stall door and airborne germs).

Anonymous said...

Hey what's with not letting the dog in? They're pets, not lawn ornaments.

The Misanthrope said...

I don't attempt to sleep in the dog's house. Besides in So. Cal, the weather is not so extreme that she needs to be in the house. On cold rainy nights, wife makes me bring the dog in.

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Anonymous said...

I'm with Anonymous: Why do you have a pet if you exile it to the back yard? Dogs are pack animals and its psychologically cruel to isolate them from their pack (family). You need to worry more about living things you can actually SEE!