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Surprise in the Bathroom
by Michael Giardina

In the men's bathroom of Hutchison Hall, there was a document posted to the wall, alerting toilet users of a revolutionary health practice: hand washing. I stared, dumbfounded.

I never heard of this method of sanitation. Hand washing? Huh? Luckily, the document contained step-by-step instructions. I'm confident few, if any, of you have ever heard of this novel concept, so let me fill you in.

According to the sign, you must: wet hands with warm water; use a clean bar or liquid soap (put the bar soap on a rack to drain and dry); lather all over hands by scrubbing vigorously, creating friction, reaching all areas of the hands and wrists and counting to at least 15; rinse hands; dry hands with a paper towel if possible; use the paper towel to turn off the water taps.

I tried to follow these instructions, but they proved more difficult than I imagined. I tried to use the bar, but it was made out of metal and didn't do anything.

When I found some pink liquid, I tried to rub vigorously but was distracted by counting. I got to 13, but then forgot how to identify a paper towel. I did, however, know that friction is the force between surfaces in contact that resists their relative tangential motion.

Frustrating. If I was going to learn how to wash my hands, I was going to need to do some personal research. I drove home, logged onto the UC Davis website, and did a search for "washing hands."

Luckily for me, the search engine returned 446 results. What dedication! No wonder UC Davis is one of the most cherished universities in the country. If it hires people to write over 400 pages about hand washing, just imagine the money it spends on pay raises for stellar professors.

Reading through the documents, I found a wealth of valuable information. For example, did you know that you may encounter germs and need to wash your hands if you touch kids' toys, playground equipment, diapers, computer keyboards, cellular phones, shopping carts, money or elevator buttons?

I'm so glad they don't mention swamps, puddles of nuclear waste, infected Band-Aids that are oozing with green pus, or the livers of mad cows. Yes, no need to wash your hands in these circumstances.

Though according to the UC Davis website's search results, there are certain special circumstances where washing your hands is particularly useful. Consider this rare case: Should you need to keep food safe in a natural disaster, it is recommended that you wash your hands before preparing baby formula for an infant. Apparently it's not so important if there's no natural disaster occurring.

Also, it's allegedly a good idea to wash your hands after handling mail. If you find powder in the envelope, the website advises that you wash with warm water for one minute instead of 15 seconds. This mysterious "anthrax" must be a bit more resilient than common household bacteria. More importantly: If someone panics and shakes a powdery envelope, it may become necessary for others in the workplace to wash their hands for one minute as well. Sounds like voodoo to me.

For those of you like me who have never heard of this miraculous hand-washing phenomenon, please join me next Sept. 18 to 24 in celebration of National Clean Hands Week. Yes, it already exists. So, we shall take to the streets to educate the world.

Yes, we will march through the city to ask university officials one simple question: If scoring high on your SATs is a requirement for admission to the University of California, why is it that we don't require that incoming freshmen already know how to wash their freakin' hands?