Bathroom Humor -- But Not How You Think

>> Tuesday, December 22, 2009

With the H1N1 pandemic all around us, I find that I have been innundated with instructions on how to wash my hands.

On the back of the door on the toilet stalls in Bryce Jordan Center at Penn State University, I saw a sign telling me I washed my hands long enough if I sang "Happy Birthday" to myself twice. In church a few months ago, someone suggested that I sing the Doxology to myself to time my hand washing, and just yesterday I heard Handy Manny tell his Tools that he knows he washes his hands long enough if he sings the "Hop Up, Jump In!" song.

Personally, I think that at this time of the year we should be singing the Christmas song of our choice, and out loud, too. Now, for my non-Christmas-celebrating friends, you may elect to take the position of my Jewish dentist and sing Christmas carols with gusto, or feel free to substitute a song of your choice. If you love Chanukah songs, feel free. I personally love to sing "Jingle Bells" all year round, so I would enjoy hearing a little Chanukah music even though the holiday is "officially" over. (Actually, on my mother's advice, I've taken the position that "Jingle Bells" is really a winter song and I am free to sing it up through February without penalty.)

Okay, so far so good. We have a little bit of disharmony and conflicting music in the public restrooms of the nation, but so far no problems. So what is my beef? Well, I have many. First, in the largest public gathering I have ever attempted (Beaver Stadium, which seats in excess of 100,000 plus vendors, security, staff, and other personnel), there is no hot or even warm running water. In the middle of freezing cold flu season, we as paying guests of the stadium have no choice but to wash our hands in cold water. When the temperature is 40 or below, washing hands in cold water is very difficult to do.

Truthfully, I was once standing in the lavatory at Beaver stadium trying to figure out if I wanted to go and pretend to wash my hands at all or if I would just step aside and whip out my pocket hand sanitizer in an attempt to avoid frostbite. I was all in favor of the no-frostbite approach, but I had a bit of a fear the other women would start pointing at me and saying, "Yuck! She didn't wash her hands!!!!! In a fit of inspired creativity, I did whip out the hand sanitizer and offered it to the four women nearest to me in lieu of all of us washing hands in cold water. They were most grateful, and we exited the restroom in solidarity, with our sanitized hands safely inside our gloves and no risk of chapping or freezing. For one brief, shining moment, I was a hero to my fellow women football watchers in the nosebleed seats. I felt great.

No, there is no "but" to that story. It ends with "I felt great."

Moving on. Someone sent me an email with instructions on how to handle public restrooms during flu season. In a nutshell, the advice is to wash hands (in appropriately warm water, singing your approriately designated song), obtain a paper towel, turn off the faucet, and open the door with the paper towel before discarding it and exiting the restroom, all while touching nothing but said towel.

Well that's great! If your restroom is about 3 feet long, has paper towels located near the sink and a trashcan located near the door. I've only been into one restroom that met all these criteria, and it was a Toyota dealer's stall in South Central Pennsylvania -- not a place most of us will end up before we die. (Although the restroom was shockingly clean and the people were most charming. Still.)

Most of the time I find myself facing the question of what a responsible citizen of Earth and bathroom-visitor is supposed to do? Am I supposed to concern myself primarily with environmentally green issues like turning off the water quickly and minimizing towel use in favor of mounted heaters? Or, am I supposed to concern myself with biohazard issues and treat myself and every object around me as if it is actively contagious and I am solely responsible for stopping the spread of the flu by not touching anything?

What do I do? Save the Earth from global warming, or save humanity from a flu epidemic? My email and my doctors tell me to worry about the flu, while the signs soldered to the mounted heaters tell me to preserve the environment.

Help! This is too much responsibility for one trip to the restroom!

I'll admit I often choose the anti-flu regime over the pro-environment regime, but this choice is not without a good dose of guilt. I figure that maybe I am being duly punished, though, during the times where there is no trashcan by the door. In that case, after I open the door using the towel, I have no place to put it, and I am left holding a (supposedly) contaminated towel in my hand in some public place -- like a restaurant. I either continue to carry the germy thing, drop it on the ground (hence littering), or shove it in my pocket.


I like hand sanitzer best. It's portable, and the only overarching issue with that solution is whether I am contributing to the creation of superbugs by using it. Hmm. I'm going to pretend I didn't ask that question.


Heather December 22, 2009 at 8:43 AM  

I totally adore hand sanitizer and swear that it must be with me at all times.

Superbug, pffffft! ;)

Emma December 22, 2009 at 4:14 PM  

Hand Sanitizer is the way forward! I came over here from Heather's blog and you are my new friend for the week so Hi! It's nice to meet you. Hope that you are having a good week x

Karin December 22, 2009 at 5:51 PM  

Thanks, ladies! I hope you are enjoying my little jaunt on the quirky side. I'm glad to have met both of you. (I picked up Heather from Janis on #FollowFriday, so we're all friends of friends of friends around here!)

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