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Nshima & Curry
Nshima & Curry
A PROBLEM WE CAN WASH AWAY
During halftime of a football game, I visited the restroom
and had to stand in line to use a urinal. The line moved
rather slowly, as you might expect when a bunch of men who
have drunk a lot of beer are trying to walk forward
cross-legged. And when they reached the front of the line, a
couple of them actually came close to hitting their target.
I'd even go so far as to call them marksmen, considering all
the marks they left.
But far more surprising, when I went to wash my hands, I
found all the sinks waiting in line for me. I spent five
minutes just deciding which sink to use. And another five
minutes figuring out how to operate the faucet. (It was one
of those automatic ones, the kind that automatically raises
my blood pressure.)
According to several surveys in recent years, many Americans
do not wash their hands after using the bathroom. Yes, at
this very moment, there are millions of Americans walking
around with dirty, bacteria-laden hands. And some of them
want to shake your hand, give you a high-five or, God
forbid, treat you to a full-body massage. My advice to you
is simple: RUN!
The surveys, sponsored by the American Society of
Microbiology, show that while 95% of people claim to wash
their hands after using a public restroom, fewer than 75%
actually do. Researchers stood in selected restrooms around
the country and observed people. (Now you know why that
strange person was staring at you, making you rush out of
the restroom without washing your hands.)
Not surprisingly, a higher percentage of women washed their
hands than men. This is one of the many reasons women spend
so much time in bathrooms. My unscientific study has
uncovered some of the other reasons: Women need to look in
the mirror, comb their hair, look in the mirror, adjust
their clothing, look in the mirror, apply some lipstick, and
did I mention look in the mirror?
Men, on the other hand, are as eager to get out of the
bathroom as they are to get in, unless they happen to be
carrying a newspaper. Some men are probably reading this
column while perched on the throne. A few are wondering why
anyone would leave a bottle of soapy liquid on the counter.
Must be one of those feminine hygiene products.
Men in New York City are among the worst offenders. One
survey found that only 62% using restrooms in Penn Station
washed up afterwards. That figure includes the 40% who
accidentally squirted themselves while trying to steal the
Why is hand-washing so important? Because dirty hands can
transmit a number of diseases and can even cause diarrhea,
sending everyone to the bathroom, creating a shortage of
toilet paper and forcing men in overalls to chop down more
So what should you do when someone tries to shake hands with
you? Here are some options:
---Raise your leg and say, "Do you mind if we shake feet
instead? It's the cool thing these days. I saw it on MTV."
---Reach into your pocket for a plastic glove. If the person
looks offended, just say, "It's not you, it's me. I haven't
washed my hand since the day Elvis kissed it."
---Try to determine the risks by saying, "Wow, your hands
look extremely clean. How many times a day do you wash
---Be direct with them: "Sorry I can't shake your hand.
Nothing personal. Just trying to save a tree."
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