I Guess Nobody Will Wash Their Hands Today

True story: I went to the bathroom today at work, took care of my business at the urinal and proceeded to the sink to do the obligatory hand wash. For the record, at this point my hands are basically clean. We have infrared urinals in the office that flush automatically, so I haven’t touched the toilet. Granted, I have briefly handled my genitals, but I don’t really consider that act in itself to be unsanitary.

After all, I take pride in keeping my genitals in immaculate condition. Hell, you could eat off it if you had to. But that is a different post altogether. The point is, regardless of my personal assessment of the cleanliness of my hands, society dictates that I give them a courtesy wash after using the office restroom, even if it is totally insincere.

Naturally, I oblige. Here’s where this story takes a turn: There is no soap. Both dispensers have been ripped out of the wall. At a moment like this, multiple thoughts ran through my head:

  • First off, I thought, it sure is odd to steal two liquid soap dispensers. As far as stealing office supplies goes, this has got to be an unconventional theft. Or was it a theft? Taking soap dispensers could really be considered more of a prank, right? It is a fine line. It’s not like these dispensers have a street value, as I doubt one could feed a family or support a drug habit by pawning two liquid soap dispensers. On the other hand, stealing all the toilet paper would definitely be a prank… as there is a definite humor opportunity at someone else’s misfortune. I’m not sure if taking the soap has the same effect. Anyway, I wrestled with the distinction of prank vs. theft for awhile, and then it occurred to me that this could really be an experiment. Perhaps someone has planned a sociological experiment to see how people would react if there was no soap in the bathroom. Maybe this is all being secretly filmed, on a show like Candid Camera. Ultimately, I decided that was unlikely. Seriously, all of these thoughts ran through my head. Then, I realized I had about a half-dozen issues of much larger concern with the missing soap dispensers.
  • For starters, these dispensers weren’t easy to steal. They were bolted to the wall. If these aren’t safe, what about the bobbleheads and Star Wars figures at my desk? Then I remembered I played with them earlier in the day (sigh of relief).
  • Next, I was thankful that nobody else was in the bathroom with me. Truthfully, I’m always thankful for this. But today, even more so. I was fortunate that all my business was conducted at an infrared urinal, and a hand washing wasn’t critical. If there were witnesses present, I might otherwise have been forced into acting like I cared about the lack of soap, or felt disgusted that my hands were unwashed after using the bathroom. In this particular situation, I really wasn’t bothered by it.
  • Then, a sickening feeling came over me. It dawned on me that nobody else would be using soap today either. This was a problem. I seriously don’t want to touch anyone or anything for the rest of the day. Starting now, I plan on walking around the office with my hands tucked into my armpits like Mary Catherine Gallagher.
  • At some point, probably this afternoon, I will have to go to the bathroom again. Will I walk all the way across the building to the other bathroom, just so I can pretend to care about washing my hands? Will I opt for convenience, and realize I’m not here to impress anyone, and just use the soapless bathroom a short walk from my desk? Or, do I decide that any pretense of office decorum has been destroyed, and just pee in a water bottle at my desk like a trucker? Honestly, all of these ideas have merit.
  • Finally, if I had to choose one two-word adjective to sum up my coworkers it would be: “exceptionally lazy”. I guarantee most of the men in my quadrant will have no qualms about forgoing a hand washing if it would potentially save a trip across the building. That’s a given. However, the real debate is over how long it will take to get the soap situation rectified. Someone will have to take the initiative to email the maintenance director or notify the janitorial service. Sounds simple, but this would mean summoning an ounce of productivity. Therefore, I think the over/under before we get soap in the bathroom again is 8 weeks. Place your wagers. (And to be fair, and to not influence the outcome, I will limit my contribution to fixing the soap problem to this post.)

Shaking my head, I shuddered at the prospects for the rest of the day. I ran my hands under some water, and called it good. At least I get to work from home tomorrow, and nobody cares if I wash my hands there.

9 thoughts on “I Guess Nobody Will Wash Their Hands Today”

  1. That is a peculiar prank or theft for sure. It actually is strangely similar to a recent prank played in my office. One of the older staff members emptied the soap dispenser in our bathroom. He then replaced the liquid soap with engine cleaner and a thin glue. The result was a paste that you couldn;t wash off your hands. So if anyone came out of the bathroom without the paste he would proceed to call them out as a disgusting non hand washer. I’m not sure what was worse the ridicule or the stinky paste.

  2. Do you find it a wee bit troubling that your first inclination is that your coworkers are hardcare drug addicts pilfering valueless items to suport their habits?

    Thinking of coworkers I’ve had, sure, that would be on the list of possible explanations, but easily third or fourth.

    I think it is more likely that:

    • The Incredible Hulk has a desk job. And it’s eating him up inside. He went in to use the restroom one day and both the soaps were out. Unlike you, Hulk has manners so this put him over the edge. Not only was he trapped in a dead end desk job, NOW HULK CAN’T WASH HANDS TOO! AAAHHHH! (He turns green, his clothes tear, and he swats the dispensers off the wall like they are itsy bitsy spiders crawling up the water spout. So the question to you is, whose pants and shirt were ripped to shreds at work that day?
  3. Matt, as always, I loved your post. It was particularly appropriate because hand-washing ettiquette is a subject that’s been on my mind a lot lately. I’m in Germany right now and one of the things that has been killing me is NOBODY washes their hands. Strange, right? When I think of Germany, I think of tidiness and a regimented quest for structure. Well, aparently hand washing is not top on their list of structures.

    Anyway, for reasons I won’t go into, I’ve spent quite some time in the bathrooms here. Let’s just say I’ve had plenty of time to study this unsettling trend and I’d put the non-handwashers ahead, about 10 to 1. All I’m saying is that, next time you are in Germany, be careful when shaking hands.

  4. Moira, I’ve got even worse news for you:

    If the non-handwashing ratio is 10-1 for the women, it has to be about 1000-1 for men.

    I got that figure by simply applying the general rule that women are 100 times more sanitary than men.

    If I were you, I’d find a way to incorporate rubber gloves into your business casual attire.

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