PCC Bathrooms… where are the paper towels?
Portland Community College is doing a disservice to its students by not providing paper towels in campus restrooms.
That wonderful time of year has descended upon us once again… flu season!
The best way to prevent the spread of influenza and other illnesses, according to the American Medical Association and the Department of Health, is to wash your hands frequently—especially after using the restroom. This has been common knowledge for years and most of us now wash our hands after doing various types of bathroom business (although, it is a bit disconcerting that I have to say most instead of all). For anyone that doesn’t, please don’t tell me and please don’t shake my hand.
Of course, shaking hands is also a great way to catch a nasty bug, and the strain this year is particularly nasty, resulting in several deaths nationwide, and not just among the elderly. Many amongst us, including my lovely missus, no longer shake hands when meeting and greeting folks. In Latin America and parts of Europe, a kiss on the cheek is often the common form of greeting. While this seems on the surface to be a much quicker way to acquire a contagion, it’s actually a much safer greeting option.
So, to help prevent catching a cold or flu, avoid shaking hands, wash your hands after doing your business and kiss that acquaintance on the cheek.
But…what happens after we wash our hands?
This question has puzzled me ever since I noticed the paper towels leaving Portland Community College Campuses, only to be replaced by air drying machines. While on the surface this has less environmental impact (I’m not convinced it does. You’re replacing one renewable resource [trees] with another [energy], but that is not the point of this article, nor my area of expertise), it may have a detrimental effect on your health.
Here’s the problem:
I attend to my business in the bathroom. I go to the sink and I’m forced to use my hand to turn on a germ infested faucet… there are no paper towels. I hope for an open stall, to grab a piece of toilet paper and turn the faucet on. If I can’t get to a stall, I have to figure out another option.
I wash my hands dutifully, using soap and warm water and being sure to get under my finger nails. I turn off the water and stick my hand in a dirty jet dryer.
This is fine, I suppose. My hands are dry, clean, warm and toasty. The biggest problem is about the rear its ugly head: How do I get out of this germ infested restroom?
You see, the door opens in. There is no way to use my hip, my elbows or any other non-hand body part to get out. Escape requires grabbing onto a dirty door handle (I may have washed my hands, but did everyone that grabbed that door handle do the same?), pulling the door open and making my escape. Back in the days when there were paper towels, this was not an issue. Sure, the college bookstore sells reusable paper towels, but most of us don’t know that, and, as college students, most of us can’t afford even this minimal additional expense.
Now, unless I’m in one of the bathrooms with an automatic door opener, I’m biologically materialed out of luck. My options become grabbing a dirty door handle, which essentially cancels out my hand washing, grabbing a piece of toilet paper, which may or may not be available, or using my shirt or my own handkerchief (and since I’m not my grandfather, God rest him, I don’t generally carry one around).
Why can’t I just have paper towels? I’m all for helping the environment and doing my part to reduce waste and my carbon footprint, but I’m also in favor of not getting sick. If the College is not going to provide paper towels, they need to ensure that the doors that swing out so no hand use is necessary to exit and to make sure hand sanitizer is available directly outside the bathroom doors.
That’s all I have to say about that. Seacrest out.