Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Also, Wash Your Hands Afterwards

Most people think they have the basics of hygiene down, but odds are some of us don't. That's why you occasionally run into public-health information such as this sign, posted in a community college rest room, to alert us to sound hand-washing technique. This sign was carefully designed to account for people's different learning styles. We don't all take in information in the same way. Some people are visual learners, some are auditory learners, and some need both plus a whack on the head. So this sign, showing how to wash one's hands, included both text and a hand mock-up with helpful arrows pointing to the germane washable portions. It probably does the trick, although a small percentage of people reading the "back of hands " arrow, which flips back on itself, will turn themselves away from the sign and then walk away puzzled, without washing.

This is the sort of thing that gets some people all riled up about government overstepping, but those sorts of people, unlike myself, have yet to suffer the crushing humiliation of being told they have been wiping their butts wrong all their lives. Me, I still figure there's always more to learn. In the case of this sign, I did note that I may be coming up short. For instance, I haven't deliberately washed my wrists since the lambing fiasco.

The bulletin about the shortcomings of my butt-wiping technique came during my early twenties, considered by people in their early twenties to be well into adulthood. And it came courtesy of another adult who was in a position to care, and who I may later have married. It is the sort of news you have to take sitting down. I reacted in the typical fashion: denial, anger, bargaining, and blaming my mother. The bargaining stage did not last long, because the accusing adult was threatening to withhold certain privileges I had grown fond of if I did not refine my protocol.

I refined my protocol. It wasn't easy. If you've spent a lifetime getting your butt going the wrong way, it's like trying to retrain a cowlick. Nothing about it felt right, but I persevered, and soon enough the approved method of tidying up felt quite natural.

It had to be my mother's fault because the entire zone was once her bailiwick; my father didn't give any instruction either, but in the fifties this sort of thing wasn't in his parental portfolio. He was just supposed to disappear every single dadgum (I'm told) day to a job he despised and bring home enough dough to see his kids through college and out the door. So it was definitely Mom's fault. In my only direct recollection, I was at an age I was already taking care of this butt issue myself. One day things got a little unruly and I felt the need for Mommy to come in and bat cleanup. I hollered out the second-floor window to the back yard, where Mommy was putting out the lemonade pitcher and aluminum tumblers and clothes-pinning the plastic tablecloth to the picnic table in preparation for a cookout. Other adults were present. Mommy stared up at my pleading face in the window for a moment, and then directed my sister Bobbie to go take care of me. Bobbie never disobeyed a direct order, but she didn't look too fervent about this one. And my sister was not at all who I had in mind. Somehow I managed to clean myself up before she trudged all the way upstairs, and I was officially on my own from then on.

So I'm thinking that whatever method I'd come up with was just fine with Mom; if it no longer involved her, that was the main thing. Truth be told, our family hygiene standards were not the highest. I think we looked respectable enough, our clothes clean and our hair combed, but we kids were only required to take a bath on Saturday nights, with mid-week touch-ups provided by Mom with a scrubby washcloth--you can dang near take a kid's face off with one of those--and running through the sprinkler. It was probably a legacy of her early years on the farm without indoor plumbing, when immersion baths in a metal washtub were problematic and only undertaken on special occasions and before checking in with the Lord. I was a teenager before I began taking daily showers, long and hot enough to steam the sorrow out of adolescence.

Dave is horrified by this, having come from a much cleaner family. He has always had good and strenuous hygiene habits, although they're wasted on him. Constitutionally, for some reason, he couldn't manufacture a b.o. stink molecule if he was given a vial of flop sweat, a box of pit hair and a manual. He had to develop flatulence skills just so that blind people would be able to tell he was passing by. But if he, or the government, wants to tell me what I'm doing wrong, I'm willing to listen.

35 comments:

  1. I don't know why, but for some reason, I'm rethinking this whole butt-wiping thing.

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  2. Front to back, always front to back.

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  3. Ah, my morning Murr smiles. I had to relearn the whole butt wiping thing too, long ago. But now anything else seems WRONG. Could I swap my guy with Dave? He sounds like a really fragrant kinda guy: the good kind.

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  4. Hey Murr! Wait, what?! I'm supposed to wash my hands?! But I'm an Englishman, and naturally immaculate! Indigo

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  5. Heading to the bathroom now after reading this post - pass the soap.

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  6. Roxie sez
    Must confess I learned proper butt-wiping by reading the "Marvelous Muthah" column in a biker magazine while hanging around a garage, waiting for the guys to finish whatever wrenching thing they were on about. I was in my late twenties. Amazing the things we learn later in life.

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  7. No butts about it, I have no idea if my technique is right or not. Where is the government poster to ensure proper clean-up?

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  8. Sitting here in my chair, lmBo....

    Now I won't have to worry about my technique.

    xoxox

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  9. Another incentive to clean up our acts.

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  10. Sing 'Happy Birthday to You' twice, at normal speed, while you wash your hands, and you will have done the job properly. That's what my grandchildren learned at school last flu season. Apparently there were no butt wiping lessons...

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  11. Then there are cultural expectations in the washroom to overcome-- I saw helpful diagrams at Penn State University in the stalls to remind folks that the sort of toilet seats we have in the US are meant to be sat on, not stood on and squatted over. I wonder if it was a preponderance of broken seats or actual personal injury that prompted the placement of these signs.

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  12. Is nothing sacred anymore?
    Okay, I must admit you made me smile. Our recent phobia of germs and concentration on hygiene is a bit over done I'm afraid. However, I always appreciate it when the other guy takes it seriously.

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  13. I won't hold forth on my butt-wiping strategies, some things are too personal to be aired. But one thing that mystifies me is why men always wash their hands after peeing. What exactly could have contaminated their hands? Their own appendage? Their zipper? Their underpants? I must be missing something....

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  14. Front to back. Front to back. Now see how easy that is? I think my basic instruction was "git 'er done."

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  15. As a child, and even to this day, the worst horror of horrors is finding the toilet paper has run out of the bathroom. My mother was quite deficient in this practice of keeping the TP roll stocked and ready.

    Even to this day in this modern age, I don't know how primitive peoples, from the Yanamamo of the Venezuelan jungle to the combative Taliban of remote Afghanistan, manage to manage without toilet paper. Food comes a close second in my hierarchy of needs.

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  16. And to put a whole new twist on this, Murr, Google jenkem.

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  17. As a wee child I used an out house and a sears catalog for a year or so. There's a reason my grandpa always said "rough as a cob" He used corn cobs. Toilet paper is relatively new, so is hygiene. With Japanese 1 1/2 gal toilets we are regressing.

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  18. And water restrictions here mean we cannot have sprinklers running to meet mid week hygiene needs. What is the world coming too?

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  19. "Food is Number Two..."
    Murr, you just can't help yourself, can you!

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  20. Sometimes it's nice being "Anonymous," even though I am thus named because I couldn't figure out how to give myself a clever one - - or any one. So, @____ Take a break! Lighten up. Butts ARE sacred.

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  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  22. I think it would really be funny if they started putting in signs on HOW TO PROPERLY WIPE YOUR BUTT
    inside each stall!!! I can imagine someone seated there, reading and following the steps!!!
    LOL

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  23. Alex the Lion: Whoa! Hold up there a second, fuzzbucket. You mean like, uh, the "live in a mud hut, wipe yourself with a leaf" type wild?
    Julian: Who wipes?

    --Madagascar (the movie)

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  24. Well, obviously this is a serious deficit in our education system. I confess, that I, too used the incorrect butt polishing technique, ingrained by years of practice. You truly are a pubic servant, saving our community butts. Thank you.

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  25. I was looking for the diagram on how to butt wipe...
    Jann aka #1Nana

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  26. Since my mother had four daughters, she taught us all the proper method very early. I am a little challenged in that I really hate water and have refused to shower for long periods in my life. I do take baths, and do the fingers, face, fanny, feet wash every day, but in my desire to avoid water, I really don't bath more than a couple of times a week. I'm actually not dirty either except when I'm trying to be.

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  27. Barb. If something gets ingrained, you're polishing too hard.

    Linda, I'm picking up the average in the shower department. I've never found a shower or bed I wanted to get out of. I am pruney, but well-rested.

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  28. Too funny Brewster. No smart-ass comeback from me. A fine yarn well spun.

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  29. Anne says: OK.... I think the squat toilets with soap/water wash up afterwards has it all over the usual toileting in this country. The only difficulty is what to do with the clothing paraphenalia. I never did master that but in the privacy of our own abode, I could strip waist down and be wonderfully clean after any bathroom visit. Malaysia rocks!

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  30. I'm going to prove what a classy guy I am, and avoid all comments on the concept of wiping your butt. Especially since other, greater minds have already covered the butt.

    So to speak.

    (The great R. Crumb, in case you didn't know...)

    I will say that I work in a hospital, and one of the biggest problems (and one of the holy, worshipful "Core Measures" required by the Joint Commission) is handwashing. It's a major pain in the ass (heh) to get the doctors to wash their hands before going in to see a patient, and upon coming out. That's all we need, but they can't seem to handle it.

    And the sad part is, as bad as our numbers are, they measure this on across the country, and we're actually doing pretty well on it.

    Go figure.

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  31. No wonder people get so many infections in medical facilities. The docs slept through micro.

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  32. My grandson, who attends pre-school, taught me this helpful ditty when he was three. Wherever I am, I faithfully sing along as I wash: "Top and bottom, top and bottom, in-between, in-between! Rub 'em all around now, rub 'em all around now. All clean. All clean." I think it helps me to stay with the handwashing task a little longer and it keeps people from crowding me in the airport bathrooms.

    You're a really good writer, so I know you could come up with The Butt-Wipe Song.

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  33. Yeah. Well. I get started just fine with "Back to Front, Back To Front," and then I fall apart contemplating rhymes.

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  34. Washing hands properly is the most effective way to stop spread of disease and you would be amazed at how many people do not know the hot water/soap/"Happy Birthday" combination and just wet their hands and dry them thinking they are washed.

    I do not always wash my hands after I pee as my mother taught me not to pee on my hands. . .

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