Friday, 3 October 2008

Warning - this entry may give you OCD

Pierre Bonnard painted a lot of paintings of his wife. Invariably she was getting into or out of the bath. Some might think he was a dirty perv who liked to take any opportunity of catching her with her frock off, and this was the only time guaranteed that she would be in this situation, others (some might call them people who know the truth, or who have researched things more than my usual making of blind assumptions for comedy purposes) believe she had a skin condition that meant she had to stay damp most of the time (this was before Oil of Olay was invented).

I have another theory.

I came up with this one when I noticed that many of the aspects of public toilets were becoming automated, and automated in such a way as to minimize contact with hands. Dirty hands. Hands that have just done unspeakable things with unthinkable areas. I don’t need to go into the detail (although it would be far easier to fill 1000 words if I did).

The idea is, that if the hand drier works without you having to push a button to activate it, you are less likely to pick up the germs from the person who was so filthy to start with, that the hand washing process did not fully remove all the filth. Drying filthy hands is fine, as long as you don’t have to make the drier filthy to do so.

After that, I noticed that taps are starting to have sensors, so they activate only when you wave your hands nearby. There is nothing worse than using a filthy hand to operate a tap, then washing your hands, and re-encrusting your clean hand with the filth that you left behind when switching the tap on.

The toilet flush is now invariably motion controlled, sometimes sensing the motion of the back away from the cistern (or the leaning forwards to achieve a more comfortable position, relieving a trapped nerve, or letting the blood get back into the lower leg and preventing that excruciating post pins and needles hypersensitivity) and risking a monumentally damp posterior, requiring further careful wiping… you get the idea.

This is all, of course – completely pointless. I’ll come onto the reasons for this pointlessness later, but in the meantime, the other aspect of the sensitivity can be addressed – which is the environmental concern.

There are a number of potential hypocrisies involved in being green.

If the solution to using too much water is to have movement sensitive taps, what is the solution to powering the movement sensors?

If I re-use carrier bags, how do I compensate for the additional fuel used to carry them all the way back to the supermarket?

Is it better to have the supermarket deliver to me (using an inefficient van, but doing a big old round trip instead of all those little trips in cars) or for me to go to the supermarket (it is the former, as I have a Mini, and it takes about 20 minutes to order online, plus about 15 to put it all away once it arrives, instead of the 2 hours it takes to drive to Sainsbury’s, park, find a trolley, find every thing I want, then go back and find everything I need, then search the entire place for Marmite, before queuing for 25 minutes to get through the checkout…

If I cycle to work instead of driving, I have to eat the equivalent of a mars bar to replace the energy expended in the ride. What impact do the food miles of a mars bar have on the environment?

Of course, if we thought like that all the time, we’d never go anywhere or do anything.

When I go to the loo, there are any number of occasions where my clean hands have the opportunity to become muddied up. I open the door to get into the loo. This is fine. I open the cubicle door, which is also fine. I then lock the door, which is where the problems begin. The last person to leave that cubicle had no option, but to use his nasty fingers to unlock the door. The flush might be movement sensitive, but the inside of the door isn’t. then, I use my sullied digits to undo my trousers, contaminating not just my hands, but my belt, buttons and undies. Then I sit.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t do anything these days without being entertained while I do it. I can’t walk to the tube without the iPod on and I can’t sit on the tube without a book. And I can’t sit on the toilet without playing worms on my mobile phone.

Never ever touch my mobile phone. It must be the most germ ridden device in the world. Once I’ve dispatched Rockard, Nails, Killer and Deadly, the phone goes back in my pocket, my hands, stink waves emanating off them like Ralph Wiggum’s portrait of Moe the bartender, leave my own trail of residue on the clothing, the door lock, the inside door handle, and (if it isn’t movement sensitive) the tap, and only when I wash my hands, so do I finally become content that I have done all I can to remain clean.

Of course, not everyone washes their hands. Some people walk straight out, gripping the inside of the toilet door (toilet doors invariably open into the room), leaving a malodorous palm print of bacteria for even the most cleanliness minded individual to pick up.

In short, every aspect of our daily lives is dirty. We can’t escape it, and we might as well wrap ourselves up in sterilized Clingfilm and sleep in a bath of alcohol based hand sanitizer.

Or, bringing me back to the bath obsessed wife of Pierre, perpetually bathe – morning noon and night, because only by constant cleansing can we ever be truly clean

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