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Primary Care
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According to a recent study, 85 percent of Americans are washing their hands after using a public bathroom; improved from 77 percent a few years ago. The other 15 percent are contaminating the rest of our world. Nearly three times as many women wash their hands than men, however. Apparently, men have a prevailing assumption that if you don’t pee on your fingers, you don’t need to wash your hands.

Personally, I am not overly worried about the pee-guys, but I do worry about the men behind those stall doors. Men’s restrooms are considerably nastier than the women’s facilities (so I am told). If I am forced to use a public restroom, I try not to touch anything if I can help it. I consider bathrooms stalls the most contaminated rooms on this planet. I would love to put on some type of biological hazard suit, but this isn’t practical.

I have seen impatient, dancing women quickly use a men’s room when the line to the women’s restroom is too long. It only takes one of these experiences to truly appreciate the difference.

For the first time, I would like to reveal the inner workings of a typical men’s room. There is usually a bank of urinals against one wall, about five. Men do not like to stand side by side with another man peeing, so whenever possible, an unused urinal becomes the “buffer.” Some urinals have little walls between them, but most are open. There may or may not be a lower urinal for little boys.

In the stalls, I would be shocked not to find urine on the seat. Even though urine is usually sterile, no one wants to ever sit on it. Men like urinals (sort of), but little boys do not. They are either too short to use them, or too shy. Given a choice, little boys head for the stall where they will freely pee on the seat, the floor, and the flush handle before finding their mark. I would be shocked not to find sticky urine on the floor near the toilet.

Men do not like to sit on strange toilets. Given the choice, they prefer the one at home, well-stocked with reading material. Unlike women, men have not developed the fine art of toilet seat hovering. Men are accustomed to sitting down and reading for a while. Women typically pee and leave.

No one really knows the best toilet stall to use. I guess the best one would be the handicap stall, but that isn’t very nice to occupy. Most will use the stall most distant from the door, however, you do tend to select the one that looks the cleanest and has a flushed toilet. If you must use a stall, you really don’t want to pick a stall next to an actively occupied one. It can be disconcerting to hear all of those bathroom noises next door, or see someone’s shoes tapping out a silent tune.

I do witness men washing their hands, but a two-second splash of water and maybe a little soap is not thorough hand-washing. (To learn how to do it right, watch the WebMD video How and When to Wash Your Hands.) If there are paper towels available, men will use them. If there is an electric hand-dryer, most will not stand there long enough to get their hands dry. They will them dry on their pants and just leave.

Restroom doors tend to open inward, which means that your clean hands will need to touch a door handle freshly contaminated by the non-handwashers. I usually just hang around long enough for someone to come in, and then I will shoot out before the door closes.

Growing up in Appalachia, we had outdoor toilets at my junior high. There was no running water to wash your hands. Because of this frightening experience, I learned to hold it, all day if need be, rather than use this outhouse. This ability has served me well over the years. Unless I am truly desperate, I do not use a public restroom.

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