The problem: I am shocked and dismayed at the number of men who do not wash their hands after using a public bathroom. The urinal is bad enough, but I have often seen men leave the stall and walk right out the door. I really want to say something to them, but am always concerned about a confrontation.
Low road: Stand at the exit with tea towels and a tip jar like in some fancy European bathrooms. Nod with understanding as they attempt to explain that they were just looking for a quiet place to make a call.
High road: You definitely don’t want to have a confrontation. Get roughed up by somebody with those hands? Ick.
I assure you this problem is not limited to the men’s room. I’ve seen many women exit stalls, check themselves in the mirror, and walk out with nary a moment’s hesitation — and we can’t use the urinal excuse.
If you work in an environment that demands sanitary conditions, such as a restaurant or hospital, please tell your supervisor. This person is putting others at risk. Otherwise, you can post signs in the bathrooms, but I’m guessing that will be as effective as my plea not to steal my leftover pizza from the communal fridge. It’s highly unlikely that your fellow adults don’t know they’re supposed to wash their hands. They’re choosing not to. Gross, yes, but resist becoming the Potty Police.
Use hand sanitizer (perhaps as you subtly pass your co-worker’s desk) and steer clear of handshakes. And remember that we’re swimming in germs all day, from coughs and sneezes and goo on keyboards, credit cards and steering wheels, to who knows what we drag in on our shoes. Plus, most of us who do wash our hands regularly don’t wash long enough to kill all the germs anyway. Ask a 4-year-old for a lesson.
Send questions about life’s little quandaries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of Gail’s “High Road” columns at startribune.com/highroad.