Just kidding, it’s about bathroom handles

The combination of media whipping the general public into a state of hysteria about the recent spread of cold and flu germs, and the fear that not everyone washes their appendages after using the bathroom, has led to hygienic concern. Science tells us that the human hand carries more bacteria than a dog's mouth. So why is it that Capilano's public washrooms--the appointed depository of all things unhygienic--are not engineered to cater to the needs of dutiful clean-freaks?

Consider this: the first floor library washroom--a place frequented by any busy academic--has a door that swings inwards, allowing easy access. And that's great, because that extra half-second can be very useful in a do-or-die situation. But this means the handle is inverted, forcing one to pull the door open from the inside. The architects of Capilano's library can be forgiven for their ignorance of swine flu, dog's mouths and post-toilet human hands, but it's pretty clear that the washroom doors should swing out, not in.

It's hard to miss the latest public health warnings about bacteria counts on washroom door handles, faucets and toilet flusher-thingies. Even my surprisingly clean-mouthed collie knows that you can wash all you like, but if you have to grab a door handle to get out of the room, what's the point? Any guy will tell you everybody doesn't wash their hands after urinating; most statistics say only a little over 50% of men do in fact. Heck, if there was a little red light over the bathroom door that flashed every time someone exited without washing, the bulb would have to be changed every couple of hours. How could anyone say with a straight face that this wouldn't contribute to the spread of the much-feared H1N1 and other notorious viruses?

And even if you were one of the good bathroom attendees who soaped up at the sink, we all know a good dose of warm water helps to finish the job. Regretfully, this is lacking at any automated motion-sensor faucet around Capilano. We have the H2O, but none of the heat required. When you trigger the spray it only spews for five seconds, not nearly enough time for the water to heat up. You can try and get around this by triggering the faucet five times consecutively in a vain attempt at water-warming, but you would find even twenty-five seconds is insufficient. The Health Canada instructions say to wash in warm water for at least fifteen seconds (one recitation of the alphabet backwards). Following these rules, using the Capilano bathroom sink, it would take over a minute to properly wash.

Not that everything in Capilano's bathrooms is flawed. Your hands may have a hard time getting clean, but as long as you feel like pressing that silver button again and again, they'll have no problem getting dry. The hot-air hand driers are almost as speedy as the faucets, and can be hygienically operated with the elbow.

An informal survey of 10 men walking between the Library and the Birch building found seven preferred to flush using their elbows or feet. In another canvass of 10 women walking between the Library and the Cedar building, six always cover the toilet seat with tissue paper before the deed. These are far from scientific surveys but it was interesting to see how many people pride themselves on proper hygiene.

But let's walk it through: clean hands push door open. Business is concluded. For men at least, only about half choose wash -- and that means a quick rinse in cold water. It figures there are a lot of germs reaching the bathroom door -- more, in fact, than on the inside of a dog's mouth. The answer seems clear: until washroom doors learn to wear their handles on the outside of Capilano facilities, you might want to bring your dog along to lick the handles clean.

//Matt Humphrey

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