I’d rather lose my dignity with a handstand on the toilet bowl than risk contamination

There are a thousands of ways to catch the Norovirus, and avoiding them takes dedication, skill and a certain shamelessness

Share

You want to know how to get through the rest of the winter norovirus free? Don’t handle anything. This advice, I accept, will be harder for some to follow than others. To me – because I grew up to be a universal non-handler, not touching other people, alien food, animals or myself – it’s second nature. That I was a precociously fastidious boy I ascribe primarily to a confused understanding of Jewish hygiene laws: if it was sinful to go near some things, but impossible to remember in the heat of living which, the most sensible plan of action was to go near nothing. Otherwise I put it down to my family’s revulsion, probably acquired over centuries of being treated like dirt in Eastern European shtetls, from refuse.

Though we lived in a house in Manchester big enough for us all to enjoy a degree of privacy, we congregated in the living room. Whoever needed to make use of the bathroom or the lavatory would slip away without making reference to it, though his absence was immediately noticed. There were two sorts of contamination we feared: viral and aural. Distance and doors protected us from the latter; against the former, we waged an unending war of disinfectant and ingenious precaution.

What we most went in terror of, to be precise, were drains, sinks, pipes, plugholes, toilet bowls, anything, that is, through which waste matter was dispatched and therefore through which waste matter could be regurgitated. Just because you hadn’t seen the regurgitation process with your own eyes didn’t mean it hadn’t happened. In the night, for example, or while you were out of the house. Back it all came. And whoever doubts that toilet traffic can be two-way should try sitting on an outback dunny in far North Queensland and waiting for the blue frogs to come leaping back up through the plumbing.

Draining away

In Manchester, from where I confess we would have re-migrated to Lithuania had we seen a frog in the lavatory, this anxiety extended not only to drains and plugholes, but to everything in their vicinity. Anything on to which germs could have leapt – handles, levers, chains, plugs, shower heads, towel rails, light switches, wall sockets – we avoided naked bodily contact with like the plague because they were the plague.

In the first 15 years of my life, I never once flushed a lavatory with my bare hands. To those anxious to avoid norovirus today, I recommend flushing with the ends of a scarf or a tie, also gloves, though gloves have to be thrown away once they’ve been used for this purpose, which makes them an expensive option unless you buy them from the market, but remember that means risking such market viruses as those attendant on receiving change or breathing in.

As for trying on gloves that are sure to have been tried by someone before you, don’t even consider it. Man-size Kleenex doubled and fashioned into a sort of glove itself is an alternative, provided you destroy it immediately afterwards, though you can easily get trapped in that vortex of using one to flush the lavatory and then realising you have to use another to flush the first away, and so on until you have emptied the box or lost your mind.

Best to employ your foot wherever possible. If the lever is too high, you can always stand on the pedestal, so long as you don’t omit to clean it as a courtesy to the person who comes after you. There are people I know who feel they need to clean their shoes after this as well, but that strikes me as neurotic. What you do if the lavatory is old fashioned and has a chain depends on your athleticism. I had a lanky friend at school who used to invite us into the latrines to watch him do a handstand on the toilet bowl and pull the chain by making a sort of grappling hook of his feet, but I wouldn’t recommend that to everybody.

On guard

It’s important, once you are set on such a course – and as long as young men are spitting in the street to attract young women, and young women are throwing up in it to attract young men, such a course is necessary – it’s important to follow it through to the letter. There’s no point, for example, in being vigilant in the matter of what you touch around the cistern if you go insouciant in the matter of what you touch around the sink.

Assume you have emptied a dispenser of soap on to your fingers and then scalded them for upwards of 45 seconds in boiling water – all this goes for nothing if you then manually turn off a tap that will previously have been touched by someone who, for all you know, is not only a constitutional bare-hand chain-puller but has dropped his iPhone into the lavatory pan and fished it out without even rolling up his sleeves.

How to turn off a tap without undoing everything you turned the tap on to achieve remains one of the great hazards of using public conveniences. Unless you’re lucky enough to have found taps that work electronically – and you’ll encounter these only in expensive restaurants and Germany – I would propose the scarf, the tie, your elbow or the foot option again. Turning a tap off with your foot requires considerable dexterity and balance – only ballet dancers do it well – and can be embarrassing in a crowded lavatory at the theatre, but you can always lurk in the bar – keeping your distance from other drinkers – and wait for everybody to return to their seats. So you miss the play? You’ll be missing more than that when you’re emptying the contents of your stomach through your throat on your own bathroom floor.

In the end, the choice is yours. You can keep your dignity or you can keep your health.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The bustling Accident & Emergency ward at Milton Keynes Hospital  

The NHS needs the courage to adapt and survive

Nigel Edwards
 

Letter from the Sub-Editor: Canada is seen as a peaceful nation, but violent crime isn’t as rare as you might think

Jeffrey Simpson
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?