Tuesday, May 4, 2010


We all know we should wash our hands after we're done in the bathroom. Especially public bathrooms. We simply don't know who else has been using that public bathroom. We don't know where that user's been or what that user's got. It's not as safe as the bathrooms in our homes. Oh, don't get me wrong. As a courtesy to others, we should wash our hands there, too. But the stakes aren't as high, from the standpoint of our own personal safety and piece of mind. Our bathrooms have been used only by ourselves. Well, I suppose there's an outside chance a home bathroom could have been used by a burglar. If you ever wake up one morning and find your TV missing, make sure to really wash your hands. After all, you don't know where that burglar's been or what that burglar's got.

Still, burglar or not, you're more likely to come across germs other than your own in a public bathroom. Washing your hands limits such encounters but doesn't completely eliminate them. After you've done washing, you have to turn the faucet off. Maybe the person who used the faucet before you didn't wash their hands. Of course, if that person didn't wash his hands, he would have bypassed the sink completely. So the risk factor is actually pretty low. Still, it's kind of comforting that more and more public bathrooms have faucets that turn on and off by themselves. You never know how many maniacs are out there using public bathrooms, and then turning on the faucet just for the hell of it with no attention of actually washing their hands.

If the bathroom has a door, there's the tricky question of exiting it. Maybe that person who didn't wash his hands put those very same unwashed hands on the door handle. To be perfectly safe, you may want to head butt your way out. Just hope the person who head-butted before you didn't have dandruff.

Once you've successfully exited, you may tell yourself, "I walked into a public bathroom and lived to tell about it." Don't feel too secure just yet. Think of all the things you touch outside a bathroom. That button on the elevator, that hand railing along the steps, that magazine we skim through but have no intention of buying. They have all been touched by people who didn't wash their hands.

More and more fast food restaurants expect you to get your own soft drink. That wouldn't be much of a problem if you weren't also expected to get your own plastic lid. It's almost impossible to grab just one lid. Two usually stick together. So what do you do with the extra lid? Put it back? Since I know my hands are clean, it wouldn't be the least bit unsanitary for me to do so. But that person standing next to me with a disapproving look on his or her face doesn't know that. They may be convinced I'm starting the next typhoid epidemic by putting that plastic lid back. Also, I could be setting a bad example. A bad example to someone who didn't wash their hands. Suppose instead of disapproval, that person standing next to me has a look of malevolent glee. "Ah ha" the thinking goes. "If he puts the extra plastic lid back than so, too, will I. Ahahahaha!" So I guess I'll just throw away that extra plastic lid, a plastic lid that may still be around 10,000 years from now. Such environmental degradation could have been avoided had the person behind the counter at Burger King simply gotten that drink for me.

Are unwashed hands the only threat we face? How about our shoes? Think of all the places we walk, including public bathrooms, and on God knows what. I don't know how well germs incubate at the bottom of a shoe, but if you happen see someone karate-kicking open a bathroom door, watch out.

And what about rear ends? Yes, I know they're shrouded with layers of clothing, and that should protect us and those around us. But (no pun intended) have you ever been in a place with public seating, a theater or a bus or a doctor's waiting room, and you can just tell someone's recently been sitting in the same place you're sitting because the seat is warm? Just what is the source of this warmth? Did the person leave behind vapors? Stranger still, sometimes the person leaves actual sweat behind. At least, I hope it's sweat.

Face it, folks. Germs, microbes, spores, pathogens, bacterium, droplets, airborne particles, and microscopic, peripatetic organisms surround us wherever we go, whatever we touch, and wherever, whatever, and whoever, we breathe. The only safe way to go through life is to call NASA and see if they have any surplus spacesuits.

Wait a second. The astronauts went to the bathroom in those things, didn't they?


  1. another breakfast-beverage-out-the-nose post! i have to be more careful about when i read you. you have articulated so beautifully all the thoughts i've ever had about this.
    another angle-i spend big chunks of my days barefoot, on floors of questionable cleanliness. must_not_think_...

  2. @standing--"beautifully" is the last word I would have expected to describe THIS post, but, hey, I'll take whatever praise I can get. Glad you enjoyed it, standing, and I promise you my next post will be much more sanitized.

  3. i did consider my choice of words, and hey, it's beautifully written, not a wrong syllable in the bunch.

  4. Out, damned spot! out, I say! One; two: why, then, ’tis time to do ’t. Hell is murky! Fie, my lord, fie! a soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account? Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?

  5. @Lady Macbeth--Get thee to Walgreens and purchase some Purell liquid.

  6. Thanks for the laugh!! I really needed one today.
    The post is great :) and very real too :(



  7. @Gabriela--Glad I made you laugh, Gabriela. And remember, in spite of all the microscopic perils that surround us, most of us somehow manage to survive.

  8. @Numinosity--Is there a vaccine that will work on the power of suggestion?


In order to keep the hucksters, humbugs, scoundrels, psychos, morons, and last but not least, artificial intelligentsia at bay, I have decided to turn on comment moderation. On the plus side, I've gotten rid of the word verification.