I would suggest that most people see the washing of hands to be a good thing. If you asked a room full of people whether they washed the hands thoroughly after using the toilet the vast majority, if not all, would say they did.
The real experience of using public toilets certainly leads me to feel that this does not translate into people’s behaviour, and recent research supports this. Scientists from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine swabbed 409 commuters at transport hubs in 5 major cities in England and Wales. The findings from this study suggest that faecal bacteria was present amongst an alarming proportion of those tested.
Town Males with faecal bacteria present Females with faecal bacteria present Newcastle 53% 30% Liverpool 36% 31% Birmingham 21% 26% Cardiff 15% 29% London 6% 21%
These statistics seem to reflect my personal experience; that frequently people forget, or choose not, to wash their hands. Does this count as anti-social behaviour? People will remember the prevalence of the norovirus in the news last year, and hand-washing was postulated as one of the simplest ways to prevent transmission. The implications of not washing your hands seems to occur on an economic and social level as well as a personal one.
I have never chastised anyone for not washing their hands in public, perhaps I internally cringed slightly, but never outwardly. I guess the use of chastised is inappropriate. People tend to not respond well to being told off. This is especially true when they appear to have digressed a socially accepted norm. On a conscious level most people seem to think that washing hands thoroughly is a good thing, but unconsciously we like to defend our behaviour patterns as they are the outward displays of our personality. Equally sometimes people forget things that are a part of a frequently repeated routine.
So should I, should we intervene to interrupt these behaviour patterns, or should we just wash our hands of the responsibility? Having spent today thinking about it I think the best way may be to use some humour.
‘The sinks are over here mate!’ could be offered as helpful advice to someone heading in the wrong direction, moving to the exit without washing their hands.
Whether I feel comfortable doing this, I don’t know. If however, I develop a stomach bug after a long tube ride, I may not be able to hold myself back any longer.