Vol. 11, No. 2,640 - The American Reporter - May 6, 2005

Make My Day

by Erik Deckers
American Reporter Humor Writer
Syracuse, Indiana

SYRACUSE, Ind. -- There's a scene in the Ben Stiller-Jennifer Aniston movie, "Along Came Polly," where Ben warns Jennifer not to eat bar nuts, because "only one out of six people wash their hands after using the bathroom."

This is more than a little disconcerting, considering during the course of a busy day at the office, you will shake hands with at least five people. And if you're a conscientious hand washer, then statistically speaking, you're the only one who washed their hands the last time after your last pit stop. Which means you now have Potty Hand Germs from five different people.

Unfortunately, I think "one in six" statistic is a little understated. Having been a regular restaurant bathroom user -- and conscientious hand washer -- for many years, I believe a more accurate statistic is "no one but me."

To make matters worse, since I stop to wash my hands, this means they leave before I do. So they grab the door handle. And grip it tightly. And rub their Potty Hand Germs on the door handle. Which means that I have to come up with a plan to exit the bathroom without actually touching the door handle.

The easiest trick is to use a paper towel as a handle cover, and then just toss it into the trash as I walk out. This is becoming harder to do, as more bathrooms have those stupid electric hand driers. I can tell you that restaurant managers get pretty angry when you try to open a door with one of those.

I will also pull my sleeve over my hand, but this leads to additional problems, because now I have Potty Hand Germs on my sleeve. So I usually only do this with my left sleeve, and make sure to roll it up afterward.

I have even had lengthy discussions with my wife about whether it's better to grab the top or the bottom of the door handle with one's pinky (she says bottom, because fewer people grab it there).

Of course, if the bathroom door pushes out, then I'll walk out like a surgeon who has just scrubbed up. However, I have another trick I learned from a pastor friend of mine. This is especially useful in a busy restaurant where Potty Hand Germs are everywhere.

I'm sure you've opened the bathroom door and narrowly avoided smacking the person who was leaving. Try it from the other side: stand in the bathroom and wait for the door to open. When it does, act surprised and leave through the now-open door, without ever touching anything.

But don't think Potty Hand Germs are only limited to the restaurant patrons. I've actually seen restaurant workers use the facilities and then walk out the door.

"Aren't you going to wash your hands before you go?" I asked one guy who was obviously a cook.

"They have antibacterial soap in the kitchen," he said.

I wasn't about to argue, since I didn't want to look like a bigger clean freak than I already did. But I made sure we didn't stick around for dessert either.

Where did my obsession with hand cleanliness comes from? Maybe it was when I was about ten years old, and my grandmother told me I could get hepatitis from not washing my hands.

I didn't know what hepatitis was, but I knew it sounded bad, and I didn't want it. At that age, I assumed anything that had "itis" in it was probably deadly, and could be caught from rabid animals, dead animals, or girls. And thus began my hand washing odyssey, insuring that I would stay hepatitis-free forever.

But as worried as I am about cleanliness and hygiene at home, all bets are off when I'm working outside or on a fishing trip. There's just something about physical labor or being outdoors that seems to make men germ free.

I have no problem with grabbing a sandwich or other food item while I'm working out in the garage for a few hours. And I have eaten pizza on more than one occasion while I'm covered in sawdust or drywall dust.

It's because the sheer act of wiping one's hands on an already dirty shirts has a magical cleansing effect. Of course, if you've been doing something particularly nasty, like gutting fish, then you may want to rinse your hands off in the lake before wiping them on your shirt.

After the wiping ritual three quick up-and-down wipes, front and back your hands are clean and sterile, and you are free to eat a sandwich, pass food to a friend, and even perform complicated surgery.

Just make sure you wash your hands when you're finished. You don't want to get Sandwich Germs everywhere.

Copyright 2005 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.