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Richard Lee King

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Bathroom Door Knob Phobia
By Richard Lee King
Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Rated "PG" by the Author.

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My informal survey indicates that paper towels are a must in public bathrooms.


I’ve always had this phobia about the handles on bathroom doors. There should be a law that the doors on all public restrooms have to swing out and you have to be able to open the handle without touching it with your hands. They should all have a lever that you just push down to get out. You could do that with your elbow, or your knee.
To explain, I never leave a bathroom without washing my hands, but I’ve discovered over the years that I’m in the minority. Through my very own informal survey, it’s roughly 2 to 1 against washing. Now I don’t know about most guys but I haven’t figured out a way to haul that thing out, take care of business and tuck it back into its little nesting spot without touching it. And generally when you’re shaking off the residue, there is a drop or two that gets on your fingers, but lets assume that other guys are better shakers than I am and their fingers come away completely dry, can a quick rinse hurt anything? I’m telling you, a lot more walk right past the sink than stop at it.   And they grab that same door handle that I have to grab hold of if I’m going to get out of that place.
A few years back those electric blow dryers became real popular and many bathrooms did away with paper towels. Well, after washing and drying I like to hang on to my paper towel and keep it between my skin and that nasty door knob. Then I’ll generally hold the door open with my foot and pitch the paper towel in the waste basket. And if the people who handle the placement of the waste paper basket aren’t smart enough to figure out that they need one close enough to the door to be reached with an easy toss while holding the door open with your foot, then they deserve all of those paper towels that wind up on the floor as close misses. 
So as I was saying, most guys don’t bother to wash their hands after taking care of business. Years and years ago my wife, rest her soul, and I were in a fast food restaurant with our two young sons. Well, we were likely going to be handling our food (hard to eat a burger and fries otherwise) so I went to the bathroom to wash my hands. I came back to the table all ticked off because in the short time that it had taken me to wash my hands two guys had finished their chore and had left without washing. That was my first realization that far too many bathroom doors swing in rather than out and that it’s nearly impossible to turn a round door knob without using your hands. Of course, there were no paper towels, because of the new modern blow dryers that had recently become so popular. So, I took out my pocket hanky (as I recall it had only been used a couple times and was probably much cleaner than that door knob) opened the door and went back to my table.   (By the way, I no longer use my pocket hanky unless it’s a dire emergency. I just can’t stand the thought of carrying that thing around in my pocket after it’s been used). 
When I got back to the table, I was still sizzling a bit and my wife asked me, “What’s the matter?” So, I proceeded to run it all down to her. That probably wasn’t the brightest thing to do while we are sitting in the restaurant. Anyway, she decided she was going to wash her hands after all this talk. Sure enough, the same situation existed for her. Except, she had left her purse for me to guard and she didn’t have a dirty handkerchief to use on the door knob. She had to improvise. She pulled out the tail of her blouse and bent down to open the door using that as her germ buffer. Well just as she bent down to grab the door knob, someone came busting through the door from the other side. Darn near knocked her unconscious. When she got back to the table, throbbing head and all, needless to say that she wasn’t too pleased that I had brought it up in the first place. Of course, it did make for a lot of fun conversations in the succeeding years, but the rest of that meal was eaten in almost total silence.
To continue the story, a few years after my wife had passed away a bunch of us single people from work, both guys and girls, were going out together on a Friday night. The plan was to have dinner, then go to a nightclub for a few drinks and maybe do a little dancing. We called ourselves the “Fifth wheels” because we had all spent so many nights feeling like one with some of our married friends.
I don’t know about the rest of the world, but for some reason after about 3 beers, I make a lot of trips to the bathroom. And even though we had already eaten our dinner, I always wash my hands before leaving the room. I’ve just always had this phobia about germs. Well on this particular night I was in the process of continuing my informal poll and the ratio was holding true . I came back to the table, sat down and was enjoying the music and my fourth or maybe even my fifth beer and one of the girls (we'll call her TG) asked me if I’d dance with her. 
Well, I gave her a look and decided to have a little fun with her.   I told her I would if she’d go to the bathroom and wash her hands first. Well, needless to say, that took her back a bit. She gave me a funny look and feigned that she was insulted.   I’d known her for close to 20 years and we were pretty good friends, so she knew that there was more coming. I explained to her that I had just been in the bathroom standing right next to the guy she just danced with. I said, “I stepped up to the urinal right next to him, but he finished before I did and as I turned to head to the sink I noticed that he walked right past it without even giving it a thought. Then before I get back to the table, I see him asking you to dance. Now you want me to grab hold of the same hand that held the hand that…..?”   She never said a word, just got up and headed to the bathroom. When she got back to the table, we all had a big laugh about it and I asked her to dance. She agreed, we had a nice dance and talked more about my informal survey. Before the evening was over the entire table was completely aware of my survey and the statistical results, informal and inconclusive as they may be. Maybe not so surprising was the fact that by Monday morning, so was everyone at the bank where we all worked.
In the last few years it’s become more widely known that those old blow dryers are filthy, nasty nests for every type of grimy, grubby little germ imaginable. As a result, there are now newer, more modern paper towel dispensers that have the eye beam to dispense the towels and it seems that paper towels have been making a comeback in the public bathrooms of America. However, there are still a lot of bathrooms where the waste basket is located clear across the room from the door. I often wonder why the bathroom cleaning crew doesn’t figure out why there are so many towels that don’t make it into the waste basket.
It also seems to me that more of today’s bathroom doors swing out and only require a push to open. You can do that with your foot, knee or elbow and avoid having to touch that dirty little bugger with your hands. I assume that somewhere along the line, someone in the world of bathroom design has recognized these needs and that I’m not the only person in the world who has been troubled by these issues.
Still, a law might work better to get us to 100% compliance. "Ever notice the signs in restaurants that require employees to wash their hands? Why limit that to employees? Why not everybody? They are touching the same hand rails and the same drinking fountain buttons that everyone else uses, then he pays for his food in front of me and I get his dirty money back in my change. Why give them a free ride.   Maybe an email to the health department would do some good. Or, here's a thought, maybe we should enlist the services of Potty Police to issue tickets and fines for those people who are not taking the time to wash their hands before leaving the bath room. Maybe ever worse yet is the guy who takes my money and hands me my change. He just handled my food. Yeah, I know he's wearing those little plastic gloves, but he had them on when he handled both the food and the money. Don't even try to tell me that any of these minimum wage guys care in the least about me and my phobias, or are in the least bit worried about any of this.
Over the succeeding years I continued to take my little informal poll and I swear that the ratio has never gotten better than 2 to 1 against washing. You ladies who think I’m fudging the figures should ask your man. Don’t just ask him if he always washes; ask him if he’s ever seen anyone else who doesn’t wash. If he’s paying any attention at all, he’ll have noticed. Maybe a little more awareness that people are watching will help the situation. You just never know.
This is just a little off the subject, but have you ever sat in a bar and nibbled on the little bowls of munchies that they sometimes sit out on the counters for the customer? It might be a just a little bowl of pretzels, or maybe peanuts. Sometimes it’s mints, trail mix or M & M’s. It really doesn’t matter what it is, have you ever wondered how many unwashed fingers had fondled those munchies before you? Just as disturbing is the thought that if they did stop to wash their hands before handling the same munchies as you, it's likely that the guy before them didn't and they both grabbed that same door knob.
Not to be gross about all of this, but I’m only talking about the guys who stand in front of the urinals. I’ll leave you to ponder the situation with the guys who use the stools.  
Almost makes you want to throw up, doesn’t it?
I’m seriously considering making that the subject of my next survey.

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Reviewed by J Howard 2/6/2012
you must be a pretty super writer...because i read the entire... revolting, (subject matter only) story. egads...we have to find you a better/ok...or different past time then these types of surveys!
Reviewed by Phyllis Jean Green 1/2/2012

I often use my elbows to push through restroom doors and kick the flush
gizmo...though it is getting harder. [Tellya my age, but I'd hafta
send cuz's Entny & Mick t'tune ya up.]

Guess you know soap collects germs.

Scary world out there!!

Thanks for the fun -- if frightening -- read.


:)xOx Phyllis xOx :)
Reviewed by Sheila Roy 1/17/2011
I wish I could say that your observations come as a surprise to me, but there's a perfectly sound reason why the men's line moves faster than the lady's line. I always wash, but I've often seen my hubby leave our bathroom without washing, though he always washes before handling our food. Yet, he washes when in public places. Odd, as far as I'm concerned. I was a huge germ phobe as a kid. If I even touched the carpet in the house I would wash my hands. Then my parents got me a Basset Hound, and I was changed forever. Now I'm much more reasonable about when/how often to wash. The part about using the paper towel to open the door is spot on. I do the same thing. The most disgusting moment I had recently was in the local Chinese restaurant. I ordered to go and then went to use the restroom. As I was going in, an employee was coming out. When I got to the stall, there was no TP. I had to leave the stall and get a paper towel, so I'd have something to wipe with. (Thankfully I had noticed before doing my deed!) Meanwhile, the room stunk, so I was holding my breath the whole time. The girl never came back in with supplies, though she HAD to have known there was no TP. I was tempted to cancel my order. This week I drove by and they have a 'closed' sign on their door. Gosh...I wonder why? Seriously, a public bathroom probably won't shine like gold, but if a restaurant can't send someone to clean and supply regularly, what else are they doing wrong? Is the chicken really rat? (That Chinese restaurant was actually shut down in the 80's for serving pigeon and roadkill instead of chicken. I kid you not. It was later re-opened with new owners and a green light from inspectors.)

My vote is that most women wash. Seems it should be the other way around, because at least women have the TP between their hand and the part being wiped. We never even touch the gear:) I use my foot to flush ALWAYS, unless it's one of those nifty instant flushers. And I carry a portable Germ-X for when I want to wash, but can't, like when I fish in the summer & there's a porta potty. Keep washing, my friend!
Reviewed by Ronald Hull 8/12/2010
Reading this made me wonder. I must be from another planet. I recall when we were kids, we played in the dirt outside the shack we lived in. I also got a lot of childhood diseases, mostly spread through the air because I never touched anyone with measles in a winter environment that was guaranteed to make membranes dry and everyone dehydrated. I do recall everyone being deathly afraid of swimming in August because of polio. Or after eating, for that matter. Something called the cramps that I never got.

I guess you would have had traveled the world like I and had to wade through urine and feces in the Cairo airport to free Willie. Or eat in sidewalk restaurants with kitchens swarming with roaches and restrooms unimaginably dirty without any paper and dogs and cats begging beneath your feet. Or walking up narrow streets with the middle of the street as the sewer.

We were born to microbes, live with microbes, and will die with microbes. After all I've expose myself to, I'm perfectly healthy, and, as far as I know am not carrying any parasites around in my body because of all my adventures in wild, filthy places. We have a wonderful immune system, and, as long as it's working, most of our phobias are just that.

Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado 7/18/2010
A timely write, Richard; well done! Know how you feel: some of those bathrooms/door knobs, etc. can be downright NASty!

Thanks for your review on my story; appreciate it so much!

(((HUGS))) and much love, your friend in Tx., Karen Lynn. :)
Reviewed by Judith Ann 5/20/2010
While I totally agree with you that everyone needs to wash their hands; even men who think that their willie is a God to be cherished, washed or not, your thought that they might set-up potty police brings to mind the no smoking in public places and how they have cracked down so hard on smokers. They can't seem to do anything about drug pushers or the use of drugs to any degree but they sure can bring the hammer down on smokers. I'm not a smoker myself and never have been but the way they have inforced the no smoking policy on others is disgusting to me. I hope your potty police thing doesn't catch on too. However, I do wash my hands and most women do.

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