Using a Public Toilet 🚻 A Ritual 

You walk into the restroom and smell that first waft of stale piss, but that doesn’t stop you. No. You are on a mission to sit and expel solid waste. You rush to the toilet not knowing who or what has sat on it before you. You don’t even know if the toilet has been cleaned recently.

It doesn’t matter. There’s a golfer trying to bore its way out and you absolutely must use this toilet.

OR…

You enter the restroom to the pleasant scent of Pine Sol and walk to the nearest stall. A heavenly sight awaits you as you open the stall. The water is still dyed a deep blue from the cleaning detergent used by the janitorial staff. You’re the first person to use this toilet today, and it’s as clean as it’s ever going to be.

This is a virgin toilet! 

Regardless of how clean the toilet may be, you still have a cleansing ritual to perform before your cheeks will touch that seat. The ritual is:

  1. Grab some toilet paper and wipe the seat. Some people use sanitizer to clean the seat.  
  2. Use even more toilet paper to cover the seat.  
  3. Only when the seat is covered to the point it looks like a flat bird’s nest, do you sit to lay your rotten “eggs”.

Don’t lie, you’ve done this ritual.

We all have our reasons for doing it. It may have been a learned habit from walking into public restrooms and having to clean the seat so many times. Maybe you remember missing the bowl yourself and are pretty sure everyone else pees on the seat too. Or maybe you’re a germaphobe and feel an extra compulsion to clean the seat. My father drilled it into my head that public toilets were disgusting sources of disease. 

Some restrooms have those thinner than paper seat covers mounted on the wall. Those seat covers are psychological constructs designed to keep people from wasting valuable toilet paper. They’re so flimsy you run the risk of destroying the cover while trying to get it out of the holder. You end up wasting not just the liner, but the precious few seconds remaining before that gofer runs out of your hole.

Lifting the Seat

If there’s no urinal and you only need to pee (and if you’re male), it’s polite to lift the seat so you don’t dirty it when the next person uses it. This type of situation is becoming more common now that unisex public toilets are appearing in restaurants and coffee shops.

But I don’t want to touch that thing, and then touch my junk!

If we bother to lift the seat, we use our feet which are protected by “germ-proof” shoes. We balance on one foot and use the other to lift the seat. It sort of looks like a martial art’s fighting stance.

***

We all share the same cleansing ritual to help put our minds at ease about using a public toilet of dubious cleanliness. We clean the seat, cover it, and sit on it. And once we’re comfortable, or are sitting and there’s no turning back, most of us will whip out our phones to brows our news feeds.

Who knows, you may be reading this story while on the pot!

Phantom Hair Syndrome

You know that feeling you get after shaving your nose hairs? The feeling that a single hair survived and it’s scratching the inside of your nose. That’s what I call phantom hair syndrome[1].

You shaved the hairs growing in your nose, wipe the inside of each nostril with a tissue or toilet paper, and are pretty sure you got everything. But with each breath, you feel a hair fluttering in the breeze like a lone flag on a battlefield. You better check it out before leaving for work.

You walk back to the bathroom and examine your nose, yet see nothing where the itching sensation is located. You grab the clippers and run it over the location just to be sure. Maybe you even hear a satisfying “clip” sound and think: There, I got it.

You’re getting into the swing of things at work, when you notice a tickling feeling as you breathe! You try to satisfy the tickle-itching sensation, but end up looking like you’re picking your nose. You can’t feel the hair, nor can you alleviate the itchiness, so you go to the nearest bathroom.

If there’s someone in the restroom, you pretend to pee before examining your nose.

You go to the mirror and poke your nose up as though you’re making a pig’s snout. You use your phone’s flashlight to shine light into that deep dark cavern as you lean closer, and closer to the mirror. You’re so close, your humid breaths are fogging the mirror. It kind of reminds you of the velociraptor peeking through the kitchen door on Jurassic Park[2].

Your careful spelunking adventure yields no pesky stalactite.

You can still feel the hair as you breathe, and wonder if there’s a loose clipping irritating your nose. You grab some toilet paper and thoroughly clean the inside of each nostril. But, to your surprise, the toilet paper comes out clean. There isn’t even a booger!

The feeling must be in your head… literally.

You go back to your desk and work some more. The itching sensation seems to have worn off and you forget about the hair altogether. But when you’re halfway through an extra-long email, a tickling sensation returns…

That goddamn hair is still there!

You resign yourself to living with this hair for the rest of your life and try to ignore it. Your hand keeps subconsciously rubbing your nose throughout the day. You notice people shooting concerned glances your way as though you’re sick and should have stayed home.

You try to distract yourself with more work.

You try to forget it.

Nothing works, and the sensation is driving you CrAzY!

You somehow manage to make it through the day and just got home. You rush into the bathroom with a flashlight in one hand and the clippers in the other. You’re determined to find that accursed hair.

You find a hair… inside the wrong nostril.

You clip that newly discovered hair.

You run the clippers through both nostrils several more times.

You lean closer and closer to the mirror and peer into each cavern. You’re so close to the mirror, you keep knocking your forehead against the mirror-version of yourself, and he’s starting to look pissed.

You make a pig’s snout out of your nose to get a better look into each nostril.

You make a ghoulish O-face with your mouth to help you see the bottom of the nostrils too.

You spend half an hour with this examination and are finally satisfied, without a shadow of doubt. There isn’t a single hair inside your nose.

You notice that your forehead left an oily smear on the mirror, and clean it before leaving the bathroom.

You have a great evening. You eat leftovers for dinner and sip wine while binge-watching your new favorite show. You don’t even check the mirror when using the restroom one final time before going to bed.

Now, you’re lying in bed and are relaxed in your favorite position. Your brain is just about to switch to sleep-mode, when a single hair starts tickling the inside of your nose.

The rest of your night is fucking ruined.


[1] This is comedic story. This story is not intended to “make fun of” or “pick on” those who suffered the tragic loss of a limb. Nor, people who have prolonged suffering because their nervous system is trying to reestablish a connection with a lost limb.

[2] Spielberg, S. (Director). (1993). Jurassic Park [Motion Picture].

Swine Flu vs. Covid-19

This is an old sociopolitical commentary I recently found tucked away in a safe from about 12 years ago, when Swine Flu[1] was a thing. 

I think Americans need to be terrified of Swine Flu, because, Americans are pigs.

  • Americans are pigs because we eat and eat till our glutenous bodies expand. We are such pigs, that over half of the population is overweight or obese. 
  • Some men are pigs because of the way they chase after sexual partners.
  • Politicians… oh there’s a lot of swine there. Pork-barrel spending is evidence they are feeding their piglet constituents.
  • I really don’t like calling the police pigs, but the old nickname has been around for decades, so I must include it. 

Most Americans are swine, and should be terrified of the Swine Flu.

It turns out the Swine Flu didn’t amount to much back then, but now we have Covid-19, also known as the Coronavirus. Us freedom-loving Americans really know how to manage a pandemic. Enough so, that people have gone out of their way to help our society as we fight the Coronavirus. 

  • People have shared video on social media of them pouring Corona beers down the drain.
  • People wore lingerie on their faces when told to wear face coverings.  
  • Common people have tried a psychosomatic approach to treating the disease by providing their expert analysis to convince people Covid-19 is a hoax. How can you get sick from a disease that only exists in the minds of others? Many of these experts shared “evidence” from their conspiracy-theorist uncle whose brain is so powerful, he has to hide from the government in a basement, at an undisclosed location. 
  • As a show of support, many people assembled, unmasked, in large groups for parties. Similarly, many others assembled for protests or riots (depending on who you ask). Both had the gall to blame the inevitable surge of cases on 2020’s Memorial Day Weekend when there was little evidence to support their claims. 
  • When a vaccine became available, many Americans graciously allowed others to take the vaccine before them. Many people think these are the real reason why they don’t want to get vaccinated.
    • Some thought it would impinge on their civil liberties. 
    • Some theorized about a massive tracking program to keep tabs on them. (If you’re that worried, stop using your phone. The number 1 way to track you and your activities is through your phone. Also, what criminal activities are you involved with that makes you so scared of being tracked?) 
    • Some stated they were worried the vaccine was a massive medical experiment and they were being targeted because of their ethnicity. While, on the same breath, the same people bemoaned that other communities had higher vaccination rates. 
    • Some said the vaccine was rushed and were worried about side effects (cue the memes ending with: “… you may be entitled for compensation”). 
    • All want the vaccine when it’s too late. All ask for the vaccine when they are carted into an ICU for contracting the hoax disease.

I was wrong back in 2009. It wasn’t the swine flu Americans needed to worry about. It’s not Covid-19 we should be worried about either…

It’s our own stupidity.


[1] Swine Flu is also known as H1N1.

Why isn’t there a viable cure for HIV or Cancer?

Photo by Klaus Nielsen on Pexels.com

In less than 1 year we developed 3 major vaccines approved to help prevent serious infection of Covid-19, and the various variants. Plus, other countries have their own versions of the vaccine. I recently had someone ask me this question: If we developed a vaccine for the Covid-19 so quickly, why don’t we have a viable vaccine or cure to HIV, or even cancer?

Let’s start with cancer because it’s completely different to a virus.

Cure for Cancer

According to the National Cancer Institute, cancer is a disease in which some of the body’s cells grow uncontrollably and spread to other parts of the body. Cancer is essentially caused by our DNA. The development of cancer is either spontaneous, environmental, or caused by genetics inherited from our parents[1].

  • It can’t be helped if cancer occurs by unlucky chance, or act of God.
  • Nor can it be helped if it’s familial, unless we delve into gene-editing and what is currently science fiction.
  • Environmental causes include: various chemicals, tobacco smoke, the sun, and several other materials.

So, avoidance of known carcinogens is key to avoiding cancer, unless you have the misfortune of genetics or are unlucky and your cells spontaneously start to divide uncontrollably.

We can do our best to treat cancer, but the current treatments are very crude and not only kill the cancer cells, but also may kill the patient. There are theoretical “cures” for cancer or treatments that should work without killing the patient. The most promising seems to be nanites, which target specific cancerous cells and destroys them. Unfortunately, with our current technology and infrastructure, using this particular cure isn’t practical and is prohibitively expensive.

There’s also the health of the medical industry to consider as well, but I’ll get into that after I cover the reason why we should have a cure or vaccine to HIV.

HIV Cure

According to Healthline, HIV is a virus. They also describe AIDS as being a condition caused by HIV[2], and refer to it as HIV stage 3. Let me rephrase that, similar to Covid-19, HIV is a virus. It is caused by a specific single-celled infectious disease…

There are several forms of treatments for HIV which are very effective at stopping the progress of the disease. But we are interested in a cure… A potential cure for HIV was found accidentally when treating leukemia patients with a stem cell transplant. Unfortunately, this is not a viable cure. There has to be a series of things that have to go right for the “cure” to happen.

  1. You need to find a doctor and facility willing to provide this type of experimental treatment.
  2. A stem cell transplant needs to be acquired from a donor who has a special genetic mutation blocking the attachment of HIV to cells. According to a related BBC news article, about 0.1% of people of European or Western Asian ancestry have this inherited mutation[3].
  3. The patient (host) also needs to suffer a complication known as graft-versus-host disease in order to acquire such immunity[4].
  4. Wait to see if the donor’s antibodies kill the HIV within the patient.

This is way too expensive and not very reliable if our goal is to cure a disease, we already have life sustaining treatments for. So why do we not have a cure? Nova (PBS) suggests that our own immune system will accidentally harbor the disease when the white blood cells go dormant after “winning” the battle against the disease. There is a chance the virus will come back out of hibernation, which prevents a cure from being viable[5].

These are valid points, but I would like to pose another theory: there is no will to finding a cure. Once we developed life-sustaining treatments, the search for the cure or vaccine just tapered off. We were able to create a vaccine for a disease that mutates very rapidly in less than a year! The vaccine stops the infection and allows the body to fight it off without hospitalization. Why can’t we do the same for HIV?

Why? Money…

Originally, companies invested money into finding a cure or to at least prevent people from dying so quickly. Somehow, that changed and the focus switched to a treatment plan instead of a curative plan. Why? Profits!

You can easily sell a treatment to a chronically sick person for the rest of his or her life. They literally have to buy your product, or they are going to die. There’s no profit to be had in curing a disease. If you get Gonorrhea, they stick you with an injection or give you a pill to cure it. That’s it! It’s a one and done treatment.

If you catch a cold or flu, which are endemic illnesses, you will be directed to take common over the counter medications to help alleviate the symptoms as your body fights off the sickness. The manufacturers know you will buy the treatment again next time you suffer the illness. And there will be a next time.

Same principle goes with flu vaccines. We’ve been told that Influenza changes so quickly there can’t be a vaccine or cure, but we are able to manufacture annual vaccines for the versions of Flu that are likely going to be out in the population each year. By the way, how do they know which versions of the flu are going to affect the population every year? 

Covid-19 appears to be mutating much faster than the flu, yet we seemed to have been able to create 3 vaccines which, by the latest indications, provide the same level of protection for the other variants. 

Big pharma has invested so much money and resources into treating these chronic diseases, it would be disastrous to provide a cure to cancer or HIV, or even a vaccine. The current medical establishment would suffer all across the nation. All those profits from selling HIV treatments, and preventative pills like “PrEP”, would evaporate as soon as the population was vaccinated against the disease. It’s simply not in their best interest to develop and release a viable cure for HIV or cancer. 

In respect to cancer, we have countless businesses specializing in providing treatment. A cure would shutter most of those, which would cause massive job losses. 

We’ve lost the will…

It’s not just economics thwarting a cure. As a nation, we’ve lost focus to find a cure for HIV. We’ve become contented in the fact that we can treat the disease for the rest of our natural lives (which can be 50+ years). A viable HIV vaccine or a cure to cancer would be rejoiced around the world, but would be a nightmare to pharmaceutical companies.

They have a customer who absolutely must buy their product, or die. 

That’s a Ferengi’s wet-dream! (Star Trek reference)

Below are a few related Ferengi Rules of Acquisition[6]:

#2 The best deal is the one that brings the most profit.

#162 Even in the worst of times someone turns a profit. 

#284 Deep down, everyone’s a Ferengi.


[1] National Cancer Institute. (n.d.). What Is Cancer? Retrieved from National Cancer Institute: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/understanding/what-is-cancer

[2] Healthline. (n.d.). HIV vs. AIDS: What’s the Difference? Retrieved from Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/health/hiv-aids/hiv-vs-aids

[3] BBC News. (2008, November 13). Bone marrow ‘cures HIV patient’. Retrieved from BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7726118.stm

[4] Wikipedia. (n.d.). Timothy Ray Brown. Retrieved from Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_Ray_Brown

[5] Hill, A. (2014, August 27). Why There’s No HIV Cure Yet. Retrieved from PBS: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/missing-hiv-cure/

[6] Memory Beta. (n.d.). Retrieved from Memory Beta, non-canon Star Trek Wiki: https://memory-beta.fandom.com/wiki/Ferengi_Rules_of_Acquisition

The Myth about Office Cleanliness

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I remember seeing a morning news report about how dirty our offices are during the mid- to late-1990s[1]. I was a pre-teen at the time, so I can’t remember the specific details of the report. But I recall the news segment showed a close-up of a cleaning lady scrubbing a desk and washing a phone receiver, while the reporter described the reality of office housekeeping. I think the report told viewers that office housekeepers are only responsible for cleaning the floors, restrooms, and café areas of an office building.

That revelation goes against our fantasy image of the housekeeping staff diligently cleaning every nook and cranny in the office. If you still have that expectation, I’m here to burst your bubble and confirm the cleaning services at our offices don’t clean much. The staff typically does not clean the surface of your desk or dust things like your computer monitors, and the floor is likely the dirtiest surface in your office.

Vacuuming the floors, emptying wastebaskets, and cleaning restrooms are obvious tasks housekeeping staff will perform in any office building. If the building is owned by a single company, you can count on the staff cleaning any cafés or dining areas, and probably the communal refrigerators once a week too. If you work in an office building with many different businesses, they may only clean the restrooms on each floor.

They will not clean your desk!

They don’t clean your desk because it’s too much of a liability. The staff could accidentally vacuum something up, or move a stack of papers, or accidentally do something which disrupts business the next day. So, cleaning the desks are too risky when it comes to reportable complaints and lost items. As a defense against such claims, the housekeeping staff or contracting company, can simply say they don’t clean the desks unless there is a visible spill. If the housekeeper does clean your desk regularly, then you’re the rare exception.

We should remember that many of the housekeepers are contractors, and they need to move quickly from room to room, and floor to floor to make money. It can take an entire night for a team of housekeepers to do a standard cleaning in a skyscraper with over 40 floors. Many family-owned, small business contractors have several smaller buildings they need to clean each night, so it makes sense for the cleaning staff to avoid our desks. It’d take forever for them to do their jobs, and they can’t make as much money in the process.

This means your keyboard and mouse are still teaming with germs since the last time you cleaned them. Your phone may still have the same germs or makeup residue from the last person who used it too. This is normal, and it’s your responsibility to keep your work area clean.

Unfortunately, I’ve worked at a few locations where the cleaning staff has consistently missed the floors at the office, which is their primary responsibility. And Covid-19 has made this worse by forcing the staff to focus on cleaning high-contact surfaces and forget the floors altogether.

At one job, I occasionally noticed the same toasted marshmallow flavored jellybean on the floor, next to my desk, for almost a year. At that same job, I misplaced a Bluetooth adaptor and probably dropped it on the floor. I tore my office apart looking for that adaptor but couldn’t find it. As I threw away the jellybean, I jokingly concluded that, of all things, the adaptor got sucked up by the vacuum.

At another office, I had to sit on the floor to search for a document the mail department threw into the shred bin. I could visibly see hair on the floor and sometimes felt small debris of what could have been dirt or food particles. When I finally found the accursed document, I noticed my black slacks managed to pick up every single hair and dust particle in the area. I had to use a few sheets from a lint roller to make myself presentable again.

It may not be the individual housekeeper’s fault.

I used to work late at my current office before the pandemic forced us to work from home and I remember seeing the housekeeping staff vacuum each room during those late nights. This leads me to believe that it may not be the individual cleaner’s fault the floors are so dirty. I think it’s likely the vacuums are broken, or the vacuum-bags are full. The staff may be so focused on running the vacuum as quickly as possible, they may not notice the things they’re leaving behind.

So now you know your office may not be as clean as you think it is. Your desk hasn’t been cleaned since the last time you personally cleaned it, and the floor is likely even dirtier.

You should forget the “5-second rule” the next time you drop a chip, or other scrap of food at work.


[1] There were only a couple channels we could receive on the antenna TV, so I had to have seen the report on either Channel 11 or 13 (respectively: CBS and ABC).

The Lie we tell Teens

When I first started middle school, I started to get puss-filled bumps all over my face… acne. My parents told me this was cause by all the changes my body was going through and said the acne would go away when I became an adult.

That’s a lie!

I’ve been an adult for over a decade and still have problems with acne. It’s not as bad as it was back in my teens, but it’s still a major problem I have with my skin.

What the hell is causing it?!

My parents told me to stop touching my face when I was a teen. It’ll all clear up if you wash with Dial soap, and don’t touch your face. Washing is easy, but not touching your face is next to impossible for a teen. I had a huge head I was trying to balance on my thin neck. I needed to use my hands to prop my head up, if only to get myself through the boring classes I sat through all day.

I tried propping my head up by only touching places where my hair grew. I thought the zits would appear in my hair and nobody would notice. It didn’t work, and I still got acne in areas I knew, for a fact, I didn’t touch.

Surprisingly, I didn’t get any zits in my hair. :-/

Fast-forward to adulthood, and I’m still battling the blemishes. I don’t think my face has been clear for longer than a week. As soon as one zit goes away, another takes its place. I’ve even had some zits crop up on one cheek, only to reappear on the opposite cheek, at almost the same exact location. Some of these zits develop deep under the skin and become week-long growths before finally getting pushed to the skin’s surface.

Gross!!!

It’s been a constant battle trying to keep my skin clear. I’ve tried everything I can think of in my losing war against acne.

  • I never touch my face, not even to scratch an itch.
  • I sleep on my back, so my pores don’t get clogged while I sleep.
  • I’ve avoided various foods I heard supposedly cause acne and didn’t see any noticeable improvement. I avoided alcohol as well with similar results.
  • I’ve tried many different soaps, some specifically designed to help with acne.
  • I used over the counter creams without much success.
  • My doctor prescribed me a few creams, which seemed to work at times, but I’d still suffer flare ups.
  • I’ve considered asking my doctor about a pill I heard about to treat severe cases of acne. The guy who used it said it caused his skin to shed all over his body, but it helped him with his acne problem.
  • I even broke up with a regular fling after a month or so because he had a nasty habit of wanting to pet me and touch my face. That guy was making me break out, so I had to break it off.

I tried everything I can think of to ward off acne over the years. I’m not quite at the point I need that skin-shedding pill, but it sure seems like it sometimes. I’m at the stage where I’ve learned to cope with acne as a regular part of life and am treating it to speed my recovery when a zit rears its ugly head.

My story is a living example that acne is not a skin condition experienced during adolescence, and then magically goes away in adulthood. That’s a fable we tell kids to make them feel a little better about the changes they’re experiencing. We should tell them the truth instead, or at least try to avoid promising it’ll go away one day.