Saturday 14 March 2020

Durty hands

I was in The Institute, before we closed down, and went to get hot water in the canteen to make a restorative cup of tea after a couple of hours gabbing on about puberty and the menstrual cycle. My practice is to add the hot water and walk 20m to the gash bins and hoik out the tea-bag before it infuses too much. Much more complicated there since last year because The Bin has been replaced by three: compostable - recyclable - landfillable. Is a tea-bag compost or trash? My experience in turning my own compost at home is that, whatever about the tea, the the bag lasts forever - or at least as long as avocado stones. As I flipped out the tea-bag, some tea slopped on the surrounds of the bin-opening and left a durty brown puddle. I don't usually leave mess behind me, so I looked for something to clean up the micro-puddle; and saw a damp pink J-cloth on the adjacent slops basin.

As I picked it up with my left hand my [un]conscious brain screamed <contaminate> <covidinate> <contaminate> but too late. Aghast I looked at my hand as if it was The Beast With Five Fingers and I was Peter Lorre at his most melodramatic. The cloth was wet, at room temperature, and used by who know how many people that morning. I'm a biologist and not usually squeamish about bodily fluids or organic matter having wiped a lot of bottoms young, old and mine in my time. But I decided that something must be done and so went to wash my hands for the second time in five minutes. The tea was wonderful.

I left in the afternoon and was home in time to take a delivery of kerosene from Jerry the Oil, who famously delivered heating oil through the still frozen aftermath of Storm Emma two years ago. He only takes ten minutes to make his drop but it's worth every minute because he's chatty and on-the-button about what's going on. That session was about Corvid-19, closures, community and croissants. Croissants? Yes, I know what colour they are. Anyway, Jerry starts really early in the morning and works all the hours the gods send. On Tuesday he got the munchies midmorning and stopped in the local garage for a stop-gap for rumbly-tum. He was much taken with a shiny fresh croissant; thought it was Covid-safe because of tongs and freshness and had it in one hand as he paid for it with folding money. At that moment, like me with the J-cloth, alarum bells <unclean> <unclean>  rang in his head as he looked at the filthy lucre in his hand.  All this hand-washing is making us reflect on a) how little we do it b) how little damage we sustain from leaving the bacteria alone.

1 comment:

  1. Reminds me of a section in Ronald Dahl's Going Solo, where he meets a woman on the ship who eats oranges with a knife and fork because human hands are so filthy. He neglects to inform her he doubts the cutlery would be satisfactorily disinfected