High-Brow and Handwashing

The Handwashing Experiment in Upscale Saratoga

By John Lundgren

A year ago while I was working on my “Why Wash Your Hands?” chart, I did some not-so-scientific research at one of our country’s exclusive summer resort areas, Saratoga, NY. It was the race track season in Saratoga, and the city was bustling with humanity. Now keep in mind, that the horse set includes some of the biggest society names in the country. My quest was to find out if the “upper crust,” our country’s blue bloods, believed in handwashing.

Saratoga,NY | Summer Home of Blue Bloods

The race track was teeming with horse fanciers and gamblers, the restaurants were jammed to capacity and the grand estates on North Broadway pulsed with the rich and famous. Grand pianos waking up after months of dormancy echoed through the August evenings as the red bloods and wannabes clinked their Champaign glasses in salute of the horse racing season.

Early evening Champaign parties often included a trip across town to the summer residence of the Philadelphia Orchestra, The Saratoga Performing Arts Center or SPAC, as it is sometimes called. The limos arrive early as the front of the amphitheater starts to fill with white shirts, tuxedoes, and evening gowns.

Not everyone in the crowd adheres to the dress code of the up-fronters, and way back on my lawn seat blanket, my jeans and sweater were just right. I was looking forward to my experiment. Would this particular crowd, with its large number of dignified, educated, and culture-loving people be more apt to wash their hands on an intermission trip to the rest room?

Hold your breath,here comes the answer.

Like a "Pervert" Hanging Out at the Rest Room

Like a pervert at the county fair, I positioned myself near the men’s rest room door where I could see the sinks as well as the toilet booths and urinals. A stream of people, no pun intended, made their way though the door many of whom were dressed in tails and ties. When it came time to exit the bathroom, large numbers of men made a bee-line past the sinks and straight out the door! ( Perhaps to share popcorn with a friend!) I surmised that blue bloods had no need for handwashing.

The fancy dress code had no bearing on the odds that a natty dresser was more apt to wash his hands. In fact, the jeans and sweater crowd were there as equals-they too, neglected to wash their hands in large numbers.

Only Half the Men Scrubbed!

With my crude system of check marks, I noted how many entered and exited the bathroom without washing their hands. The final percentage was just about 50 percent. That’s right, only half of those who entered the men’s bathroom washed their hands! I must note, unlike females, when men enter a rest room it has nothing to do with combing their hair!

In other similar experiments performed by other people, the women out-washed the men hands down, if you will forgive the pun!

Virtually every man who entered the bathroom appeared to be “using the facilities.” What about the men exiting the stalls? I have to assume that some of the stall users were doing the Ecoli special. Again, only about half of those exiting the stalls washed their hands. Yuck!

Conclusions Drawn From Handwashing Experiment

    • Be careful whom you share popcorn with.
    • The educational and cultural level of a group of people have little influence on the personal hygiene of the group…or lack of it thereof!
    • There is a dire need for education about microbes and disease germs which are transmitted on dirty hands!
    • The world needs the “Why Wash Your Hands?” chart! People need to be reminded and reminded and reminded again to wash their hands!