According to the American Society for Microbiology and the American Cleaning Institute, we should be giving ourselves a pat on the back. But I can't help wondering, "Where have those hands been????"
Under the auspices of the aforementioned organizations, researchers for Harris Interactive sent "bathroom spies" into public restrooms in major cities to study hand washing practices. The ASM was ecstatic that the percentage of people washing was the highest since the periodic study started in 1996, but the figures are still alarming. Fifteen percent of the people observed (seven percent of the women and 23 percent of the men) failed to wash their hands after using the restroom.
Interestingly, telephone survey results showed 96 percent of the respondents swearing that they always wash their hands after using the restroom. Either they're suffering from self-delusion or feel some deep-rooted need to impress anonymous pollsters. ("Yes, I washed my hands after using the restroom, but I'll admit I took a detour to rescue a beached whale and save a thousand acres of tropical rain forest. Of course I couldn't have done it without my wife, uh...Morgan Fairchild. Yeah, that's the ticket.")
Perhaps we need a better definition of terms. People who claim to wash their hands "religiously" merely mean they do it only in cathedrals and monasteries. Stadiums, schools, restaurants, and offices are fair game!
("The last person in our family to wash his hands at work was named Pontius.")
In 2010 with modern plumbing and our knowledge of microorganisms, why do adults avoid hand washing? I guess some of the men who neglect routine sanitary procedures are the macho types who think their bone-crushing handshakes will kill all the germs. But then, those guys are probably afraid of using public restrooms in the first place, for fear of displaying their inadequacies.
Some efficiency-minded males just don't have time for "20 little seconds with friction, water, and soap." One explained, "If I could string together all those unproductive 20-second spans, why, I'd have enough time to write an excuse for not cleaning out the garage."
I guess it's supposed to be unmanly to practice proper hygiene. Of course it's also unmanly to wind up moaning, "Please, please bring me more chicken soup honey -- and six more boxes of *achoo!!* Kleenex. And then shoot me and put me out of my misery..."
I know the bathroom spies can't blow their cover, but at least they should act as concerned citizens when they see 15 percent of patrons failing to wash. Maybe they could use a cattle prod, or at least clear their throats loudly. ("Hey, watch it with the cough, buddy. That's my sandwich on top of the urinal!")
The recent H1N1 virus scare caused a slight increase in the number of people washing their hands, but we can't waste the momentum. Perhaps Hollywood could get into the act with films such as "The Fastidious and the Furious" or Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Germinator 2." ("I'll be bacteria.")
At the very least we need a revival of the early '70s Lava soap commercial with its haunting refrain of "Wash your hands, Roger. Wash your hands, Roger." Admittedly, other commercials might be counterproductive for the knuckle draggers who need a hygiene lesson. ("Dang it, this toilet tank don't have a little man in a speedboat either. Let's keep searchin'.")
Note: Danny Tyree's wife is a member of the American Society For Microbiology.