When Should You Wash Your Hands?


Hands. They’re fine things to have. Without them, where would the glove and mitten industries be? Certainly not curled up and tossed in the corner of the shelf in the hall closet. How would we curl them up? With my toes? Maybe. I’ve got surprisingly dextrous toes. But I couldn’t curl up and toss everybody’s gloves and mittens in a world without hands. There’d be too many things to take care of even if we pretend gloves and mittens are the same as the glove and mitten industries. For example there’s finding out whether I could open a jar of peanut butter with my feet. Probably not, because there’s no way I could get my feet clean enough to dream of touching the thing food is in with them. I have a hard enough time walking into the pantry in bare feet.

Which brings me to my topic and you to relief that I have a topic. A critical part of caring for your hands is washing them. And yet what do we really know about hand washing? Almost everything, if we’re paying attention. It isn’t all that difficult to work out. Washing of hands should be done under many conditions, among them:

When handling food. Especially if you’re handling hot soup, even if you’re doing so very quickly for fear of scalding.

After handling food. Unless you were handling it by purely psychological means guiding it to do what you wish by clever suggestion. That’s your choice, but why are you pulling these passive-aggressive head games on your bowl of Museli? Keep on like this and you’re going to be pulling pick-up artist stunts on a bag of Fritos. That’s making the world a more needlessly miserable place. Stop it. Just stop.

Before eating food. Don’t go thinking you’ve found a loophole if you didn’t handle food and just got it delivered to you by some outside agent. We’re paying attention. We aren’t going to let you get away with any argument that wouldn’t work on your mom when you were seven. And even if you did go directly from handling your food as part of preparing it to eating don’t think you can skip the in-between washing step either. In fact, just for that we’re going to say you should wash between your post-handling washing and your eating. And maybe in-between the post-handling washing and the pre-eating washing. And if you think of complaining about that then we’ll give you something to complain about.

After coughing or sneezing into your hand. Also after blowing your nose into your hand. We could avoid this easily if people didn’t make the mistake of coughing or sneezing or boogering into their hands but so many of us do. It’s natural. What else are we supposed to do but put the body parts we use to interpret and manipulate the world directly in the midst of an unpleasant eruption of secreted body fluids? You could lift your arm and cough, sneeze, or whatever into the inside of your elbow, according to a panel of American Medical Association doctors who were kidding but are sticking with that advice now because they’re delighted to see how many people are actually doing it. They want to know how far this will go. You would too.

When you are coping poorly with regret for past mistakes. Not sure when that is? You can set some time and trust it’s about the right amount of your life spent coping poorly. Use this simple guideline. Add 15 to your age and spend that percentage of the day in futile self-recrimination. So for example a 37-year-old would spend 52 percent of his or her waking day trying to wash off the guilt. Add five more percent if absolutely everyone agrees something was not by any reasonable measure your fault.

You know what? Between each bite of food too. We warned you.

After using the bathroom, but before leaving it. We agree there’s the obvious problem here of how you’re supposed to get out of the bathroom without touching something that’s been spending all its day, every day, in the bathroom. Recommended is to find a clean enough section of the bathroom and make gentle whimpering noises until someone comes in and checks on you. Race through the open door, tackling your rescuer so they don’t get stuck in the bathroom too. You absolutely don’t want to get stuck with yourself on the outside and your rescuer on the inside of the bathroom because then there’s no way out except getting yourself stuck in there again, all the while that your soup is getting cold and well-handled.

Before handling food. We saw you skimping earlier. Go back and do it again.

Note: washing can be done by yourself. There is no need to pay for specialist services or to have your hands sent out for custom care. It’s nothing but profit for the dealers.

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And Featuring TV’s Frank As The Spirit Of Competition or Fair Play or Maybe Soccer


OK, so this is kind of a strange one, but if the dream world is any guide to go on there’s some big stuff going on. The first is soccer, which apparently is due for one of those big mega-spectacular events that makes people talk about how it’s just about to catch on in the United States, as if it were Doctor Who or health care or something. But this time it seemed to be working, as there was this enormous, sprawling hotel stuffed full of convention-goers getting into every aspect of soccer, from roleplay through cosplay through wait my spell checker has “cosplay” but not “roleplay” in its dictionary? Weeeeeeird.

Meanwhile my father had some kind of role going around the many, many bathrooms and renovating them, which was doing extremely well and extremely quickly, often removing the fixtures in the time between your entering the room and your getting to the fixtures. He’d lay down those really lavish carpets you see in bathrooms of people that make you wonder how they clean them, too, which I hope the hotel wanted. Anyway, he’d also rearrange the fixtures so well that they’d be completely unfindable. This might have been a warning by my subconscious that I shouldn’t have had that last can of Fresca before bed.

Still, the convention was coming to its end, and was giving way to people gathering all a-quiver with excitement for the Bablyon 5 marathon due to start any minute now. As TV stations gathered in anticipation but found it took longer than they predicted, so they cut away to criticizing the plan at the White House ballpark to drum up interest in pinball by lining up a string of machines along the third base line and letting folks play for free. “The place is way too hot and muggy,” critics said, and proved this by pointing to an abandoned lot in Queens.

Anyway with all the soccer-convention people bringing their whole families in there were skeptics, naturally. Frank Conniff was there to help, naturally, in an elaborate and heartfelt if confusing sketch showing the consequences of people not believing in soccer which gave to a doubting child joy at the idea of soccer, or maybe sporting events, or conventions, or whatever it was the sketch was exactly about. And I think to my final dreaming days I’ll remember him, in white gowns and waving a statue, smiling to the kid saying “Thank you, Spirit of Competition … or … Fair Play … or … Soccer” and his answering, “Yeah, just, whatever, kid.” And turning with a twinkle in his eye to head towards the elevator.

I don’t know what exactly it means, and of course I can’t speak for Frank Conniff, but I think he would likely agree that sports, Babylon 5, my father, hotels, and bathrooms are all things which exist.