Female cleaners in male toilets

From ‘ Mind the gender in toilet cleaning’, 3 Feb 2011, ST Forum online

(Seow Joo Heng): OFTEN, we see female cleaners being employed to clean all toilets, including men’s toilets; and male inspectors inspecting all, including women’s toilets.

Obviously, this arrangement causes inconvenience and embarrassment to both users and cleaners.

Let us give some respect to all, especially the female cleaners, with just a bit of common sense: all cleaning processes involving men’s toilets can be handled by men, and women’s toilets by women.

A counter argument that this will then increase manpower costs should not hold water.

Perhaps instead on complaining about getting caught shaking off the last drops of pee at the urinal by female cleaners  one should consider that these workers are picking up our shit after us and it’s unreasonable to expect that, in this line of work with a possibly askew gender distribution, males can only clean male toilets and vice versa for female cleaners. What if there were only one cleaner on shift that day because her male colleague fell sick from clearing up someone’s liquid poo-margeddon the previous night? Would you rather the toilet be left in a state of  after-party faecal desecration, shit splattered and compacted that you would need tongs to fish out formidably rock-hard stools or unflushable condoms, swirling with noxious fart vapour so repellent and persistent your 15 minute lunch will taste exactly like the undigested discards of all toilet users combined? You spend no more than 5 minutes doing your business, these folks make sure you don’t slip on urine for more than 8 toxic hours a day. Show some understanding for god’s sake.

It’s a dirty, hazardous job really, and it’s understandable if toilet cleaners are an angry, disgruntled bunch who, being exposed to all manners of excrement, spit and pubic hairs in the course of a day, wouldn’t care less about your modesty even if you’re so well endowed that you have to stand an arm’s length away from the urinal just to relieve yourself. Best pee with caution, you know, adopting the usual stance of head and hands down, not hands behind your head whistling and cooing with pleasure. After all, it’s not just female cleaners one has to watch out for barging into our toilets, it’s also fathers who bring in their girls as well, as seen in this letter ‘Modesty issues at the urinals’, 26 June 2007, Today.





The American way of coughing in public

From ‘Coughing in public?American way more hygienic’, 26 Jan 2011, ST Forum

(Sherley Servos): …When I first noticed that Americans never cough into their hands – and in fact strongly frown upon the practice, choosing instead to cough into the crook of their elbow or their sleeve – I was aghast. After all, my upbringing in Singapore schools frowned upon the act of wiping one’s sweat on one’s sleeves. Then, after I paused to think about it, it dawned on me that the American way makes much more sense from a point of view of personal hygiene.

Simply put, what are the chances of a healthy person coming into contact with the sleeve or elbow of a sick person? How much greater are the chances of germs being spread by the person who coughs into his hand – with tissue or not – and then proceeds to handle food, money, doorknobs, public library books, gym equipment, and so on?

I am perplexed that this practice has yet to find its way to Singapore. It makes so much more sense, yet it hasn’t been adopted.

…I appeal to the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education to consider implementing this suggestion to actively inculcate the habit of coughing into one’s sleeves rather than hands (or even worse, the surrounding air).

I’m not an infectious disease expert but there’s one key difference between coughing in your hands and into your clothing. You wash your hands more often. We don’t want our managers walking into business meetings with snort on their ties, spittle all over their cufflings, or a shirt more wrinkled than an old man’s handkerchief, simply because it looks unprofessional, to put it lightly. And you don’t want our office ladies with their sleeveless, strapless tops risking indecent exposure by forcing them to hack down their blouse. If you’re a chronic cougher you’ll eventually reach a stage where you would have run out of areas to cough into, since I can’t imagine anyone coughing into the same wet sleeve twice (our hands dry faster). And no, we’re not so keen on the idea of walking around in clothes with  biohazardously higher bacteria count than grandma’s dentures.

With hands, you can achieve the same ‘American’ effect by discretely wiping them on other parts of your attire, backside, pockets, heel of your shoe etc after coughing. Or you could just wear a facemask, which, from what the SARS experience tells us, is a rarer find on public transport than encountering a crazy naked person. As for coughing into tissues, what difference does it make really, when you’re reusing the same piece, crumpling, folding, then unfolding and essentially using your phelgm as lip gloss? No, Sherley, it doesn’t ‘make so much more sense’, so unless you have solid data proving that the spread of influenza is curbed by sacrificing one’s image and expensive shirt and that Americans fall sick less often than locals, we’ll stick to what comes naturally, and our five-step handwashing techniques thank you very much.