Wash Your Hands! (EEK! GERMS!)

This children’s hospital recruited patients (and probably siblings) to remind you, through the time-tested media of crayons and markers, to wash your hands. (As the nurse put it at check-in, don’t take anything home that you didn’t bring with you.) They posted the drawings in all the elevators and lobbies.

Between all the dots on the hand to represent the germs, and the extra captions, this one was my favorite.

There’s something wrong with this advertisement for flu vaccination services:

Flyer advertising flu vaccine: Your First Line of Defense Against the Flu

The slogan just bugs me, because they got the metaphor wrong.

Think about it: Vaccines work by training your body’s immune system to recognize a particular type of germ ahead of time, so that if you get exposed to the real thing later on, you can fight it off before it actually manages to make you sick. In terms of a warfare metaphor, it’s about training the troops who guard the home front so that if the enemy successfully invades past your borders, you can fight them off before they become entrenched.

The first line of defense would be something that stops them from invading in the first place. A well-defended border, in terms of ground troops. The Coast Guard in terms of sea. Radar and anti-aircraft missiles to identity and shoot down incoming enemy aircraft.

Your first line of defense against the flu? That would be your skin.

So wash your hands!


Here are a few additions I would make to the building code for public restrooms:

  1. All restroom doors must open outward. If the restroom is large enough to contain stalls, it must be possible to open the outer door simply by pushing with the toe of one’s foot. Sharply-turning doorless corridors that block sightlines are acceptable.
  2. If it is necessary for a restroom door to lock (as is the case with single-person restrooms), handles are to be used rather than doorknobs. Additionally, attempting to open the door from the inside must automatically disengage the lock.
  3. If a restroom displays a sign asking people to wash their hands before leaving, it must be directed at all users of the restroom, not only at employees.
  4. If the outer door can be opened without the use of one’s hands, choice of paper towels, air dryers, etc. is left to the discretion of management. In the event that opening the door does require hands, drying methods provided must include paper towels.
  5. At least one trash receptacle must be within casual tossing distance of the outer door.

Of course, these are mostly ways to mitigate the fact that a disturbing number of people won’t take an extra 30 seconds to clean up on the way out. A better solution might be a device I saw in The Far Side: an alarm which went off whenever someone left the restroom in a less-than-sanitary state, with a blazing sign proclaiming “Didn’t wash hands!”