clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Trying to wash my hands of the plague while singing ‘Happy Birthday’ in a public restroom

I estimate that at least 50 percent of the water faucets regulated by electronic sensors conserve water to the point that no one can adequately wash their hands.

THOMAS LOHNES/DDP/AFP via Getty Images

Whenever the world is faced with an epidemic that threatens to kill us all, the first thing health experts always say is, “Wash Your Hands.”

So, when I am among people who are coughing and sneezing, or in a restaurant (which is often the same thing) I head for the nearest restroom as quickly as possible to scrub down.

This is what happened on a recent visit.

I turned on the water, put soap on my hands, and singing the birthday song twice (as directed by the Center for Disease Control), I washed between my fingers, rinsed the back of my hands and then looked for the paper towels to wipe dry.

There were none. There was only a hot air dryer on the wall.

Holding my hands shoulder-high like a surgeon preparing to enter an operating room, I stood and stared at the still running faucet. You see, I like to use a paper towel to turn off the spigot.

Most people would turn off the water without thinking. As a result, their hands would be covered with the crud left behind by dozens of people who had just been to the toilet and gone directly to the sink to turn on the water.

I realize hand dryers may be more cost efficient than paper towels, which have a habit of clogging sink drains and plugging toilet bowls. But paper has a purpose.

Without a towel, I tried to find a way to turn off the spigots with my elbows. No luck. Then, I tried to pull the sleeves of my shirt down over my hands, which of course transfers the plague to my clothes, which eventually will make its way down my arms, infecting hundreds of innocent people throughout the day. That’s probably how this China thing happened.

What would a health expert recommend? Where are the health experts when it comes to public toilets?

What if you are in a medical complex, go to the washroom, turn on the water and start singing that old birthday song and suddenly, the water stops running.

That happened to me a few days ago.

The water was turned on by hitting a push button on top of the spigot.

And as I got to the part where I was singing, “happy birthday dear…,” the water just stopped. I hit the button again, contaminating my hands once more. The water began running and stopped just as I got my hands underneath the flow.

I was singing and repeatedly punching the button in a race against time when someone came into the bathroom. A stranger.

And he might have been wondering why I was repeatedly singing the happy birthday song, shouting out profanities and furiously punching that button on top of the faucet.

I understand the desire of caring people to preserve the world’s natural resources. Water is precious. We need it to survive. But what if we all die from the Coronavirus in the meantime?

I estimate that at least 50 percent of the water faucets regulated by electronic sensors conserve water to the point that no one can adequately wash their hands.

I find myself frantically waving my hands around the electric eye. I cup my hands below the faucet at different depths. Sometimes, water will spurt from a faucet just long enough to wet a hand. Then it will stop. Then it will start again.

I am patient. But how many folks just walk away after that first spritz without singing even a single chorus of “Happy Birthday” to themselves.

And then they go directly to the bathroom door and open it with their bare hands.

Walmart offers the public hand sanitizing wipes to disinfect their shopping carts. You ever see that sort of concern for patrons in any bathroom?

Maybe I’m turning into germophobe like Howard Hughes. But it’s the public health officials that keep telling us to wash our hands well.

All I’m saying is if they really are concerned about limiting the impact of an epidemic, maybe they ought to stick their noses into public bathrooms long enough to sing “Happy Birthday” a couple of times.

Email: philkadner@gmail.com

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com.