A letter to sanitation violators
Dear unknown girl who refuses to wash her hands,
You confuse me, you intrigue me and you disgust me. I cannot confront you because of the anonymity of the bathroom stall, so I write you now. I could be writing to one person or thousands, I don’t even know. Either way, my questions are the same. Why is it that you think you don’t need to wash your hands before you leave the bathroom? These thoughts distract me from the art history paper I need to write desperately, but I can’t help but try to figure out your reasoning.
I hear you leave the stall next to mine and take a few steps. There is silence, and I think maybe you are fixing your hair or checking your teeth. The silence lengthens and deepens. I’m afraid I know what’s coming next. I plead with you silently — please, please, please be reaching for the soap dispenser. Instead, I hear your footsteps and the door open, and I consider calling out to you and stopping you with a loud, long “NOOOOOO!” but I wonder if you would even hear me, if you would even care. Then I realize it’s too late now; you and your filthy hands have reentered the world. You hide in plain sight.
I am left with so many questions. Were you sick that day — or the whole year? — in pre-kindergarten? Do you not “believe” in soap? Is it a moral issue? Do you think it’s wrong? Do you know it’s right, but just don’t care? Does not washing your hands make you “unique,” such an “individual? Are you so flawless, your hands never dirty? Are you hydrophobic — just plain afraid of water? Maybe your problem is the soap? Will you Purell your hands later? Are you just so busy you can’t spare 20 seconds to wash your hands? Have you discovered a secret that keeps your hands clean all the time? If this is the case, please share your knowledge.
Please excuse me if I sound bitter, but you and I have a long history. You may not know me, as I was anonymous to you too. So allow me to introduce myself now and explain our past. I blame you in part for the great swine flu epidemic of 2009, of which I fell victim and from which I later contracted pneumonia. Moreover, I blame you for a large part of the cesspool that is the collegiate atmosphere. You are the reason I use a paper towel to touch the door handle when I exit the bathroom. I hold you responsible for the trees killed by the extra paper towel I take, knowing that “just one” is not enough to protect me from the germy residue you left on the handle. You cause great destruction, and I wonder if you even realize.
I wonder about our future. Will I shake your hand later, blissfully unaware that you lack basic hygiene practices? What sort of nasty things will I pick up from using the milk at Greenberry’s after you? I don’t know; the uncertainty is a downward, overwhelming spiral.
I’ll end with this plea. Interrupt your incredibly busy schedule to wash your hands. In most cases, you literally have to walk by the sink to get to the door to exit the bathroom. Pause for a moment. Your hair looks great and there’s nothing in your teeth — plus, I’m pretty sure if people knew your secret, they wouldn’t care whether you looked like you had your hair done at the best salon or whether your teeth were cleaner than the last time you left the dentist, they would still find you revolting. It’s simple really. Reach your hand forward, take one squirt of soap, turn on the warm water and simply rub your hands together. You just did society a solid by doing something everyone else has been doing since before we could even reach the sink.
The girl in the stall next to you
Abbi’s column runs biweekly Wednesdays. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.