TYREE: Are you washing your hands correctly?

When I was a tyke, I always freaked out over the possible presence of “cat hairs and goims.” (Why a Tennessee farmboy pronounced “germs” like a hooligan in a 1930s movie set in Brooklyn, I’ll never know.)

As time passed and life’s more pressing issues accumulated, I became complacent about cats shedding, cats leaving their muddy pawprints on the car hood, cats using my credit card to order pizza delivery, etc.

And, like most people, I became lackadaisical about bacteria.

National Public Radio reports that the Democratic Republic of the Congo has released a new video in its fight to end an Ebola outbreak.

Chillingly, the six-step handwashing routine (eight steps, if you count abundantly wetting your hands with water and lathering up) advocated by the video is pretty much the same regimen the World Health Organization has been recommending for ALL of us numbskulls to use in everyday life!

According to NPR, about 30 percent of the world’s population NEVER bothers with handwashing. Even in America, only half of us wash our hands after using the restroom. And we absent-mindedly touch our faces (eyes, nose, mouth) about 200 times a day!

Yes, we Americans are quite good with TWO steps (“Darlin’, grab some extra beers and we’ll two-step on out to the back of my pickup truck and push the deer carcass aside…”) and TWELVE steps (“Hi, my name is Bill and I am… a person who gives you a hearty handshake immediately after cleaning out the septic tank”), but the SIX steps are seen as an unreasonable burden.

Partly, it’s a matter of ignorance. No one has EVER in a million years mentioned to us attentive Americans complicated concepts such as “Wash your hands,” “The turn signal is not just for decoration” and “Research the issues first, THEN protest.” On the other hand, we’ve memorized a minute-by-minute timeline of Natalie Wood’s last night alive.

Our poor hygiene is also a rebellion against parental overprotectiveness, the old “Don’t touch that! You don’t know where it has been!” mantra. Some enterprising techie could make a billion dollars developing an app that can trace the history of Where An Object Has Been. (“Ma, here’s a detailed report of where that cow patty came from. I pretty much had it nailed.”)

Pride and overconfidence play a role. (“Lye soap? My family couldn’t even afford RAINWATER when I was growing up. And the 30 percent of us who made it to adulthood turned out — *cough cough* — pretty doggone well.”)

Science says that a minimum of 20 seconds of handwashing is required; but among the folks who do bother to wash, we are more likely to scrub for a mere 8 to 10 seconds – just long enough to get the microbes riled up. It has the makings of a good horror movie: “The germs never even LEFT – and this time it’s personal!”

Perhaps we’ll wake up to the fact that good hygiene can greatly reduce zits, colds and far worse ailments. I mean, people are already wary of STDs, and those at least offer a modicum more fun than EHTDs (Escalator Handrail Transmitted Diseases).

I did see an encouraging sign posted in a diner window. (“Corn muffins so good they’ll make you slap your momma – but be sure to use an alcohol-based gel sanitizer both before and after the transaction.”)

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