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Wash, Rinse (I'll Be Right Back)

Wash, rinse, repeat.

Many years ago, some marketing person earned a huge bonus – maybe a promotion as well -- by scribbling those three words on a conference room flip chart, telling company executives, “If we just told folks they need to go through the process twice for best results, we’d sell more product.”

Later, that short directive graced the labels of most (if not all), soap and shampoo packages worldwide,

Luckily, this phenomenon never took off (I don’t believe, anyway) because I think people are generally smart enough to know that a single “wash, rinse” protocol is sufficient for most situations. (I mean, just how filthy does one’s hair or body have to be to require a “repeat”?)

Why do I bring this up? Two reasons. First, after looking at documents on my computer and rifling through scraps of paper early this morning, searching for something to write about among things that, at one point, seemed important, clever, interesting or funny, and now I have little to no idea what they mean, I can’t seem to come up with much to write about.

But, as someone who doesn’t believe in “writer’s block,” I’m not giving in or giving up.

That’s what led me to “wash, rinse, repeat.” Well, it led me to some version of that, anyway. Let me explain.

Among all the other directives, guidelines, rules and cautionary statements we’ve been exposed to in the past few months in an effort avoid exposure to a worldwide virus, the one that sticks out the most is this: “Wash your hands.”

Before we go any further (and you may decide not to; don’t worry, you’re not alone), rest assured I’m not going down the path everyone from comedians and late-night talk show hosts to your brother-in-law, Bill, have about how, “Do we really need a pandemic to teach us how to wash our hands?” (Insert canned or polite laughter here.)

I’m also not going to give you a new way to “Sing your way to 20 seconds” to make sure you’re really getting those hands clean. (What’s wrong with simply counting “1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi …” or just washing your hands, and when you think you get to 20, give it one more “go around” on the knuckles and fingertips just to be on the safe side?)

My issue (makes it sound important, doesn’t it? It’s not), is this, and I’m wondering if you’ve also experienced it. Often, I’m at the sink to wash my hands after performing an activity that requires hand-washing: things like pulling weeds, taking out the trash, getting ready to prepare dinner, or in the past few months, after touching anything considered outside my immediate “bubble,” because that’s what groups like the CDC, among others, have suggested.

Fine. No problem. I’m a diligent hand-washer – and a decent instruction follower -- so this is stuff I already do. (I’m not an animal, after all.)

Thing is, lately, when I wash my hands for the aforementioned purposes, something triggers my brain, which triggers something in my (ahem!) body, and I immediately have the urge to go to the bathroom.

So, I do.

Then, I wash my hands.


Now, after reading that, you may be thinking, “Well, Dave, I get it. But, hasn’t it always been that way for you? I mean, if you always wash your hands when they’re dirty or germy, and you also always wash your hands after you go to the bathroom, this probably started happening long before all these rules and guidelines were put into place, right?”

And, that’s exactly what I considered one day as I went through the “wash, bathroom visit, wash” process. But, after wracking my brain (and make no mistake, folks, I spent a good long time pondering all this), I truly believe it (or I) wasn’t like that pre-COVID, not that I remember anyway. Two or three years – or even six months – ago, I don’t recall coming in from mowing the lawn, washing my hands at the kitchen sink, and then immediately dashing to the bathroom.

So, I ask this question: “What’s going on?”

How, all of a sudden, have I fallen victim to this “wash, rinse, repeat” scam? It’s like my body (or my mind, or maybe a combination of both) has manufactured this Pavlovian reaction to warm water and soap that has me immediately running to the toilet after washing my hands, causing me, moments later, to wash my hands again.

Maybe it’s just a strange coincidence: I’m getting older, and my brain and physiology are playing a version of that age-old “put his hand in warm water while he’s sleeping” shtick at the very same time we’ve been directed – and constantly reminded -- to obsessively wash our hands.

Or, maybe I’ve always been this way, but I’m just now noticing it.

Or maybe, just maybe, on some subconscious level, the soap industry has finally figured out a formulation that gets us to change our behavior, compelling us to “wash, rinse, repeat” without even thinking about it. And, they’re doing it by using that one, unstoppable force in our bodies against us: the bladder.

Far fetched? Yes. Crazy? Maybe.

But, let me ask you this: Is it any stranger than so many of the other things we’ve heard, said and done over the past three months? (Hint: The answer is "Yes, it is.")

© 2020 David R. Haznaw

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