Reader Response, Vol. 4, Issue 37

Etiquetteer received some thoughtful and vigorous response to his comments about paper towel disposal in public restrooms:

From a health care worker: As a worker in a health care system, I have been trained to conclude my hand washing properly with drying my hands on a paper towel, using same paper towel to open the door, turning around and tossing the paper towel in the waste basket. That's how it's done.

Whether or not anyone saw you not wash your hands, those bad smells and bad germs are still on your hands! What bad smells? Urine has a strong lingering odor that permeates whatever is near it. Wash your hands, boys and girls. What bad germs? Why, strep and staph and things that make all of us seriously ill. Wash your hands.

At this point, it's not just etiquette. It's a duty to humanity, like driving while sober.

From a health care administrator: I drop paper towels by the door after I use them to open bathroom doors. I seek forgiveness. There actually has been a campaign underfoot for years by public health, epidemiologists, and other 'squeamish folks' for years to do just this: drop paper towels on the floor after opening bathroom doors with them. The idea is to encourage (dare I say train) folks who clean, design or build a restroom that a trash bin next to the door is needed and NECESSARY to decrease cross-transfer of germs.

An alternate goal would be to make exit doors in bathrooms push rather than pull, so this 'litter' is again unnecessary.

Littering may not be the answer, but washing your hands after using the bathroom and then opening a dirty door that others just have opened with wet or unwashed hands is defeating the whole purpose of washing the hands in the first place, especially when those people are kitchen staff who are about to touch or prepare your food.

Etiquetteer responds: Well all Etiquetteer can say is, that’s a mighty passive-aggressive "campaign" for change. May Etiquetteer suggest that a letter-writing campaign or a petition might be more effective than littering?

A reader submitted this charming story about the late Zero Mostel after Etiquetteer’s advice on How to Approach a Celebrity:

Back in the mid-sixties my former father-in-law and his wife were vacationing on one of the New England coastal islands (probably Martha's Vineyard, but I'm not really certain) and they were at the dock waiting to meet friends who were arriving on the next ferry. My former father-in-law saw Zero Mostel there, apparently also waiting to meet the ferry.

Camera in hand, he approached Mostel. "Excuse me, Mr. Mostel, but could I ask a favor of you." Mostel, no doubt very tired of always being approached by the public, especially when he was on vacation and attempting to relax, scowled as he turned. Mike continued "Would you mind taking a picture of my wife and me here on the pier."

Mostel was quiet for a moment, somewhat taken aback by this request that was the opposite of what he had obviously expected to be yet another request that he pose for a photograph, and then he burst out laughing and said "Of course." My former in-laws posed on the dock as Mostel took their picture. He was still chuckling as he handed back the camera.

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