Entry #77 – A thin line between Sanity and Sanitation

I have a very sensitive tummy. I lost 2kg last year after eating two dodgy wraps of Moin-Moin (A local delicacy made of grounded beans, tomato and onion blended, wrapped in a special green leaf before steaming) at Sweet Sensation (a popular Nigerian eatery). The careless act of ingesting slightly contaminated food then became a race against time to find the nearest restroom that had a toilet seat with nothing yellow on it. Experts may call the nauseating condition I.B.S (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) but that’s waaaaaaay too much Grammar for the layman, so I call it what it is – A.R.S (A Running Stomach).

Whilst hygiene levels may vary from one eatery/restaurant to another, we the consumers can also help ourselves by taking a few precautions before putting our hands near our mouths. Ever since I worked temporarily as an Admin Assistant in a hospital I have been fascinated about hand sanitizer gels. The idea that you could actually wash your hands without water or soap, and simultaneously kill 99.9% of common bacteria  is no longer absurd. I’m so used to using hand sanitizer gels that I usually buy a couple each time I travel to the UK. Nowadays I’ve come across pocket-size hand sanitizer gel here in Lagos. Supermarkets like Goodies, Shoprite and Oasis all sell various types of hand sanitizer gels. The one I currently use is CutiCura.

Whenever I massage the hand sanitizer into my palms at work after giving anyone a handshake I sometimes get this strange look from my colleagues as if to say, ‘What’s this crazy Nigerian doing this time?’ ‘What is that thing he’s always rubbing on his hands?’ After you’ve had as many ARS experiences as I’ve had you wouldn’t want to take any chances. Perhaps if the caterers at Sweet Sensation had used hand sanitizer gels or even used sterilized gloves during cooking then I wouldn’t have nicknamed them ‘Sick Sensation’.

There was one particular person that was responsible for drastically depleting my supply of hand sanitizer gel – my former driver. You might be thinking, ‘Oh, how nice! He was also concerned about hygiene and wanted to sanitize his hands…God bless him’ – WRONG! My supply of hand sanitizer gel went down fast because his habits forced me to increase my usage. I never shake any driver in the course of work for the sole reason that I do not want to breed familiarity – a certain level of respect must be maintained. My driver then would sometimes offer to re-park my car whenever it was obstructing the company car. The first time I gave him my car keys was when I beheld the horror first hand (no pun intended). He took my car key and as he walked off I noticed that his old man was scratching his crotch. Now, if a man wants to scratch his crotch that’s fine by me, but for God’s sake don’t use my car key as an accomplice! I also watched him from the window and after he had moved my car he proceeded to dig his earhole with…yes, you guessed it…the ‘cotton bud’ which I had stupidly mistaken to be a car key!

After this gory revelation the driver came back to return my car key. As he reached forward to hand it over I stared at the key with utter disgust. How could I take this potentially smelly and bacteria-infested object which had visited more orifices than the Alien probing tools in Roswell? I told him to drop the key on my table. As soon as I was sure that he was out of sight I reached into my desk drawer for my trusty Cuti-Cura hand and, without touching the key, I poured a drop of sanitizin gel over it – Who am I kidding? I practically drowned the car key. This became my daily ritual at the office until I got the much anticipated transfer I always wanted.

Today I’ve not taken it upon myself to start a campaign to ensure that every Nigerian wahses their hands frequently. We wee taught that in primary school. Common sense dictates that our hands come into contact with bacteria all the time; when you use the toilet, when you shake someone’s hands, when you use a public computer (like in a cyber cafe), when you pick your nose, etc. I will continue to use my sanitizer gel and I am more than happy to share the benefits with anyone who is curious enough to know wy that crazy Nigerian is always rubbing his hands after handshakes and toilet visits. At least I’ve not had no case of ARS in the last 7 months. Coincidence? I think not. And no I don’t suffer from OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) 😀