Minneapolis unveiled a new icon that lets you know what happens when you get norovirus. You double over and emit dotted lines in a graceful arc from your head and your fundament.
This is what we called in college a “whirlybird,” so named for the sudden, rapid changes in orientation one would assume relative to a commode. A particularly bad spell would wear a small spot in the linoleum.
Am I being euphemistic enough? You get the idea. The floodgates open. The gullet unburdens in a thunderous chunder, and you pray for death. And Death says, “I’m working on it.”
Why was the icon revealed? Because Tuesday was national Handwashing Day, which suggests you can forgo the scrubbing on the other 364.
The washing instructions are usually something like this:
1. Assume you are delivering a baby.
2. Run the water until it is hot enough to take the finish off the chrome fixtures.
3. Apply a liberal amount of soap, which is not a scent you would ever choose. Some pumpkin would be appropriate this time of year. But, no. It’s the usual institutional perfume.
4. Scrub one hand with a brush whose bristles are sufficient to remove insects from the coat of a wild boar; stop when bone is visible. Repeat on other hand; wipe away blood.
Note: You should scrub your hands for no less than 17 minutes. A handy way to know if you’re doing it right is to sing “99 Pump-Action Bottles of Purell on the Wall,” verses 99 through 46.
5. Finally, dry hands, then firmly grasp bathroom door handle touched by someone who did none of the above and probably was handling raw horse meat a few minutes ago.
Washing your hands is like flossing: You know what you should do, but you don’t always. On the other hand, it is different from flossing, in that you don’t wash your hands for the first time in six months when you go to see the doctor.
No one actually follows all the hand-washing rules. We figure that if we do the basics — hot water, soap, rubbing our hands like a silent-movie villain, opening the bathroom door by pulling our sleeve over our hand — we’re good.
You’ve probably had the norovirus. You just called it “the stomach flu.” There is no such thing. “Influenza” is a term specific to the respiratory system. Calling it “stomach flu” is like saying “lung indigestion” or “runny spleen.”
Perhaps you got norovirus on a cruise ship, where an outbreak makes everything immensely unfun. The staff has to bleach everything, including the captain, and everyone is stuck in their cabins whirlybirding in a bathroom the size of a phone booth, so there are multiple concussions.
To avoid this, cruise ships station hand-sanitizer stations everywhere, and also have stewards standing by the dining room door with jugs of Purell. On one cruise line, they dutifully recite “washy-washy” — which, after two days, makes you feel punchy-punchy and then stabby-stabby. But it works.
The reminder to clean our hands is fine and good, and hurrah to everyone who encouraged us to washy-washy instead of willy-nilly strewing microscopic gut-disruptors everywhere. But one day is not enough, any more than the Spirit of Christmas is much in evidence around July.
We should make the logo the new Minneapolis city seal, and then we’d all be reminded every time we got a letter. It certainly would be apt for property tax notices.