Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Cleanliness is next to godliness

On Halloween night, I hung out at a local bar in Milwaukee with my friend Kim. It was pretty crowded with party-goers, so we had to grab a little table at the back of the bar by the bathrooms. As we tossed back a few drinks and admired all the creative costumes, I noticed that when some people came out of the bathroom, they walked over to a sink by the bar to wash their hands.

I thought it seemed odd that people would come out of the bathroom to wash their hands, until I realized that they had no other choice. The bathrooms in the bar didn’t have sinks in them, so you had to go back into the bar area to actually wash your hands. Now, I’ve got to believe that there were some serious health code violations going on with that setup, but I used to frequent this bar, so I decided against turning them in.

I did, however, become mildly obsessed with watching everyone come out of the bathrooms to see who actually washed their hands after using the bathroom. The only people I saw consistently wash their hands were the two bartenders, and I’m sure that’s because their boss – thankfully – makes them do that before they squeeze limes into customers’ drinks.

Kim could see that I was distracted, so I told her about my startling observation. She didn’t seem overly concerned, so I leaned over the table and shouted over the music, “There have been studies done that show that something like only 40% of men wash their hands after they go to the bathroom! How disgusting is that!?”

Kim took a swig of her microbrew beer, smirked, and said, “40%? Really? And exactly what ‘studies’ are you referring to? Sounds really scientific…”

I told her that I didn’t remember where I heard that, but I knew I had heard it somewhere, and it might have been a Dateline NBC exposé where Stone Phillips put a hidden camera in the men’s room to watch people and then ambushed them as they walked out without washing their hands. Or something like that.

Kim still seemed dismissive, so I suggested doing a study of our own to prove my point. She scoffed at first, but then her competitive nature kicked in and she agreed to do it.

“But if you’re wrong, you have to buy the next round.”

“I already paid for the first one because you said you didn’t have any cash, but whatever. You’re on, Kim!”

Since I have a bit of marketing research in my background, I know the importance of conducting an unbiased study, so I quickly called my unbiased former co-worker who used to work in research. She rushed over to the bar to help me conduct an ad hoc research project.

After some brief discussion, my friend, the unbiased researcher, set up shop at our table, where she could observe the comings and goings of the men’s room without interruption. By the end of the evening, the findings she presented to us on a cocktail napkin were nothing less than astounding.

If anyone under the age of 18 is reading this right now, I’d like you to first have a parent or guardian send me an email giving me their consent before you continue. I promise you, this is not for the weak-stomached.

Unbiased Study of Men’s Post-Bathroom Hand Washing Practices

By: Unbiased Independent Research Firm

A random sample of men was observed entering and exiting the men’s restroom at [local bar]. Upon exiting the restroom, the researcher noted whether or not the men washed their hands before returning to the bar.

Sample Size:


  • Male
  • Regular bathroom users
  • Residents or visitors of Milwaukee
  • Drinkers
  • Estimated ages: 46, 37, 35, 30, and 25
  • Estimated income: between $35,000 - $150,000

    Major Assumptions:
  • All subjects, upon entering the bathroom, performed some type of bodily function.
  • There is not a sink located inside the men’s bathroom (I tried to make Kim confirm this, but she would only tell me if there was one in the women’s bathroom, which there wasn’t).
  • Jenny’s prospective dating pool age range is between 30-42.

    Significant Findings:
  • 100% of men over 45 (N=1) wash their hands after using the bathroom.
  • 100% of men under 26 (N=1) wash their hands after using the bathroom.
  • 100% of bartenders wash their hands after using the bathroom.
  • 100% of men in Jenny’s eligible dating pool (N=3) do not wash their hands after using the bathroom.
  • Only 40% of all men wash their hands after using the bathroom.

    Unbiased Recommendations:
  • Never touch, nor allow yourself to be touched by men between the ages of 26-45 without first witnessing them wash their hands.
  • Never allow men between the ages of 26-45 to cook for you, as you will be certain to ingest significant quantities of E. Coli.
  • Exclusively date men under the age of 26 or over the age of 45.
  • Date a bartender.

    I know these results are going to send shockwaves through the entire Internet, but I thought it was important that I share these findings with the public. I am hoping to draw attention to this issue that affects so many of us. More importantly, if I can shame even one 26-44 year old male into washing his hands after peeing, then it will have all been worth it. Seriously guys, you’re grossing us all out. And we’re always watching.

    Now go out and vote!