Many baby boomers might remember the days of visiting a public restroom and washing our hands with a common bar of soap and using a common towel. The practice is common in many parts of the world even now. Here in America though, we are concerned with sharing germs … so out with the old, in with the new. BoomerCafé Co-Founder and Executive Editor Greg Dobbs muses whether small conveniences have gotten too complicated.
Am I just getting old or is my confusion common to the generations that follow ours too?
Not long ago I went to a dinner at a country club. And although it’s a bit embarrassing to tell you precisely how it happened (let alone precisely where), I began to wonder whether the world is passing me by.
The trouble is, I’m not a member of this club and therefore — and please excuse the pun, which is purely accidental — I’m not a regular visitor to their Men’s Room. Which might explain the confusion.
Because when I went to wash my hands, I didn’t know how! Oh sure, I knew how to pull the handle toward me and initiate the flow of water, and I certainly knew how to place my hands under the faucet. Let me assure you, I’ve been around.
But water alone won’t wash your hands clean. For that, you need soap. But nothing on the counter said soap. There were four plastic containers. One was labeled “Body Lotion,” another said “Mouthwash,” a third was “Body Wash,” and the last said “Deodorant.”
Oh, I know what you’re thinking right about now: “Did this guy just get bounced from the circus?” But honest, I had to use the process of elimination. I knew not to pour the mouthwash all over my hands, and was pretty sure the deodorant would only seal in the germs. Which meant I was down to just two candidates: body lotion and body wash. And since I know that body lotion soothes skin rather than washing it, I applied the body wash, and walked back to my table relatively confident that I could eat my dinner with clean hands, not to mention a clean conscience.
But whatever happened to good ol’ soap?
I’ll tell you what happened, and it happened to me the very next morning on a layover between flights at the airport in Houston … and hardly for the first time! This time, there were no faucets, no valves, just electric eyes. But that morning the eyes were blind. So the water didn’t come … from three different sinks it didn’t come… until some other guy came waltzing up and put his hands under the faucet and like a miracle, the water poured forth. So I did a quick sidestep and got my hands under his flow the moment he stepped away.
But then the “soap” — as if we can say with any confidence that the watery white effluent flowing from those automatic dispensers in more and more public restrooms has any connection to soap — played the same trick. No soap. So soaplessly I went to the paper towel dispenser which… you saw it coming, didn’t you? … didn’t dispense.
Please tell me I’m not getting old. Please tell me it’s not just baby boomers and the generations even older who suffer these indignities! Please tell there’s still soap in our future. Somewhere.