Posted by: Paul | 06/03/2009

A Sinking Feeling

Time to come clean. Unless, that is, you don’t have the time.

And when it comes to washing our hands, most of us don’t, it seems. The Centers for Disease Control says we’re supposed to take about 20 seconds to scrub up — front and back, I might add. But as a recent piece in the Chicago Tribune notes, few follow this recommendation. Indeed, judging by what I see in most men’s rooms, few even approach the sink.

Which is why I wonder if it’s such a good idea to urge more scrupulous procedures. The clear implication is that anything less is a waste of time. Won’t some people (like that guy coming out of the stall there — yeesh) … well, throw up their hands and say the heck with it?

It’s simply not realistic to expect most people to lather up and not rinse until after they’ve silently sung “Happy Birthday” twice. Surely, given the current rates of non-compliance, we can be grateful for a good 10-second scrub. Frankly, I’m just happy to see anyone try, even if it’s the old run-your-fingers-under-cold-water-for-two-seconds routine and nothing more. Compared to the big fat nothing I usually see, that’s progress.

One thing would help: Junk the blow dryers and stick to paper towels. I know — the dryers are supposed to help the environment. But they’re noisy and hot. And what about the electricity they use? That can add up: Unless the unit has a motion sensor, you often have to restart it. (And is your personal environment helped by all those germy hands out there?) Plus, dryers add to your wash-up time. Sure, some of us clean up anyway, even if it’s the dryers or nothing. But if you want hand-washing to spread, the dryers are unwise.

Of course, considering how far we’ve come since the days when doctors ridiculed the idea of hand-washing, I suppose it’s a wonder the practice ever spread at all. Maybe someday technology will advance to the point where all germs are automatically zapped as you leave the restroom.

Until it does, 10 seconds under warm water with soap ought to do it. Yeah, yeah — front and back. But don’t ask me to sing.

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