I was recently in the Milwaukee airport at an ungodly hour of the morning, making my way home after a business trip. I am in a lot of airports at ungodly hours making my way to and from home for business trips. It’s what I do. In my travels I make a lot of observations about humanity that makes me wonder how we have survived as a species for so very long.
I am a breakfast eater. Immediately after I tumble out of bed in the morning, I make the bed (a little OCD, I know), then it’s time for breakfast, a small healthy one, but a meal, nonetheless. On ungodly hour travel mornings, I manage to make it to the airport, return the rental car, check my luggage and negotiate my way through security before I forage for food. On this particular morning, finding no Starbucks for my usual; oatmeal with all the toppings, except sugar, a banana and venti dark roast. And a water for later. I’m a bit of a creature of habit as some things (okay, many things) go. I found a Dunkin’ Donuts at the Milwaukee airport, but I’ve had their oatmeal before and will never, ever make that mistake again. I spied another restaurant that appeared to be open, though it was only 4:30 AM. There were employees behind the counter chatting with customers in familiar tones. There was an employee stationed at the cash register and the menu looked appetizing. I decided on an item from the menu and waited for the employee to finish up with the chatty customer. I made certain I was standing under the “Order Here” sign. It often really, really matters to airport service employees that you are in the precise location to place an order. This I have learned. Inches matter. At last the employee finishes up with her customer and turns her attention to me, with an impatient, wide eyed “what the hell do you want” stare. You know the one, big eyes, head cocked to the side, lips pursed. I ordered my breakfast option using both the menu number and the description, verbatim, just to avoid any confusion. “We aren’t serving that yet” she replied in clipped words. Rude. I thanked her sarcastically and walked out. I found another breakfast venue/coffee purveyor closer to my gate. There was a line and it was bustling with activity. I waited in line and was greeted politely. I was even allowed to solicit some consultation on menu items and made an informed selection. A breakfast burrito, a banana and a big bold coffee. I sat and enjoyed my nourishment, then proceeded across the hall to my gate.
As is my custom, fifteen minutes before boarding the airplane, I seek out and use a bathroom. Whether I need to or not. I hate waiting out reaching cruising altitude, the drink cart and the inevitable turbulence to use the loo on the plane. After a big bold coffee, this can be a very uncomfortable state. I’m in the airport bathroom, which is situated directly across from the rude restaurant. As I exit my stall, having completed my business, I see one of the rude restaurant employees approach the sink from another stall. She turns the water on, waves one hand under the water so fast its a blur, turns the water off and exits the bathroom, drying her hands on the seat of her pants. I nearly lost my breakfast burrito as I observed her cross the hall and return to her position behind the counter where she would be handling people’s food! For the first time in my life I am grateful someone was so rude to me I refused to do business with them. I could have been eating something that literally fell into the wrong hands. Appalling.
I worked at a CPA firm once, many years ago. The principle was a widely known and respected woman. I will never forget being in the restroom in a stall adjacent to her, you know, that whole try to tinkle politely thing, pass gas silently, or hold it until later, rolling the requisite amount of toilet paper off the roll in a fashion that doesn’t speak to the volume of paper required for the job you just performed. Peeing next to your boss is weird, I suppose more so for men. Anyway, she exited her stall before me (by my design) and exited the bathroom without even slowing past the sink. She didn’t wash her hands. Ick. And I’m not a germaphobe, actually, au contraire, I embrace germs, some more than others. I think our antibacterial hysteria is just breeding super germs that will ultimately be our undoing. But hand washing after handling public restroom fixtures and wiping one’s ass with a flimsy piece of paper requires some vigorous hand washing, even in my book. I hope I managed to not look alarmed when my boss handed me documents to work on after our little bathroom encounter. I always felt like I was trying to keep from visibly recoiling and wrinkling my nose. Which means I probably looked very stiff and uncomfortable every time she handed me something. I probably even did that odd little nervous laugh I do when I have to do something I think is gross. I don’t work there anymore. My choice.
My S.O. (significant other) was visiting from his home in the far north just this past week. On one occasion I observed him urinate and exit the bathroom without washing his hands. I was not willing to broach this subject with him, as it is a fairly new relationship, and a long distance one, at that, and we are still just getting used to each other. I let it slide. Another time, he exited the bathroom after conducting his business. Curious, I thought of an excuse to enter the bathroom, the old “lash in my eye” ploy. The sink was dry, so he either dried out the sink after washing his hands, or didn’t wash his hands. The towel was dry. I checked. Again, I let it slide. Made a mental note, and let it slide. On the bright side, he does wash his hands before preparing food, so I guess its all good. Enough.
I was having an impromptu dinner with my twenty two year old son last night. I had some grocery shopping to do and he was moping around the house. It was a Friday night. We live together. Temporarily. Out of economic necessity. Mine. And his. Anyway. We made it through Target, the one not closest to the house. His girlfriend works there. After buying groceries and household products necessary for our survival for the next two weeks (we each buy our own), we were both starving and thirsty. This particular Target is in a very upscale community, in a vibrant top tier shopping center littered with dining and drinking venues. One such venue was a pub. We’d been to this particular location before, for a stout beer, but it had closed and was now reopened, presumably by another owner. I’d been there for lunch and a brew with my S.O. just the past week, after a trip to Target. One might draw the conclusion that shopping at Target makes one thirst for a pint of high quality beer. In truth, most things in life make me thirst for a pint of high quality beer, but that’s a topic for another time. I should have known after searching for a parking place in the lot, and finally settling on one adjacent to the vacant field (I didn’t even know the parking lot had spaces that far from the stores), the pub was packed. You could barely pry the door open for all the people standing there waiting for a place to sit. The dining area was packed and people milled around with their little numbers, waiting to be called. I have no aversion to crowds, I frequent airport bars often, after all, where you feel blessed to find enough standing room to quaff a beer. But as this was to be a nice visit with my son, I thought sitting down next to one another would be nice. We decided to go to the bier garten at our next grocery stop, Whole Foods. Upon exiting the parking lot, however, I remembered another restaurant in the corner of the complex, Relish Burger Bar, their logo is a martini glass. We agreed upon a burger and a brew there and waited only thirty minutes for a table. We scored a booth, without special request. We each ordered a beer, and as it arrived before our burgers, we consumed a considerable portion on empty stomachs. One of the genetic traits I have passed on to my offspring is the endearing and economically beneficial quality of being a light weight. Half way through our respective stouts, we were on to all kinds of topics. All of them funny. Maybe funnier than they would have been if we were having coffee. My son made a trip to the restroom where he found the door handle to be fashioned in a manner that didn’t work as he expected. He is a mechanical engineering major. so these sorts of things are a quandary to him. So we were on to bathroom stories. Somehow, he mentioned that he doesn’t wash his hands after urinating. I tried not to flinch. He elaborated. He does that, elaborates, on a lot of things. Of course, I’ve written fifteen hundred words on going potty and washing your hands, so who am i to judge here. He said, loosely quoted “I don’t touch anything but my dick, and it’s way cleaner than my hands. I wash it every day.” He went on to tell me that his dick is cleaner than his hands because after it is washed, it is encased in clothing, away from dirt and germs, unlike his hands. I’m nodding in genuine agreement. All I required was a logical explanation. He also figures that his hands are cleaner after only touching his very clean dick than they would be after touching any part of the DNA miasma on the soggy mens public bathroom counter. Door handles don’t harbor germs well, in reality, because they can’t survive long on that type of surface. Ok. Point taken. As I think about it, and (most) women and gay men everywhere I’m sure will agree, we put nice, clean dicks in our mouths on a regular basis without thought, repulsion or adverse affect. Be a little worried, though, if someone asks you to suck on their fingers!
So, in conclusion, what are good manners when it comes to pottying and hand washing? Should Emily Post include this in her etiquette book? Should we update the posters and placards in public restrooms? Men, if they shower at least once a day and wear clothes that protect their dicks from dirt and germs, don’t have to wash their hands after peeing in a public restroom, and in fact will be dirtier and germier if they do. If they are working with or around food, though, it would be lovely if they washed their hands after exiting the bathroom, before handling food. Women do have to wash their hands after any bathroom duty because our physiology requires us to use our hands to clean things up after the job, and if done properly (front to back) said hands actually end up at the germy a-hole separated only by a soggy little piece of paper that has disintegrated enough to have a hole. Number two, by anyone, anywhere, requires enthusiastic hand washing, though if it can be managed, not in a public restroom.
I have finished my large cup of coffee and now require a trip to john. Never fear, I will wash my hands thoroughly afterwards.