Archive for the ‘Ethnography’ category

Kills over 99.999% of Germs

September 14, 2009

Swine Flu……

Two words that cause different thoughts in everyone’s heads. Some people are deathly frightened and some will tell you that it is just like the regular flu. We have all been warned about it and explained how we can prevent it. Almost every time this happens the solution to preventing it is washing our hands frequently, especially before meals. You will often hear fellow classmates gripe and groan about the incredible risks we have at Miami University with H1N1, the risks of becoming sick, missing class, and possibly dying. They will then exclaim about how around campus one is so exposed to this virus due to the amount of people, the close environment, and the lack of a known vaccine. However, we all know that unless you are exchanging saliva with an infected student, the most obvious and undoubtedly the best way to prevent getting infected is killing or washing away the germs. The automatic hand sanitizer dispenser at Alexander does just this.

Our university offices are aware of the best way to prevent infection, and have taken action by placing around campus many automatic hand sanitizer dispensers. These portable mini health stations have become common and have been recognized and used by most students. They are often placed in dorm lobbies and at dining halls prior to choosing your food and eating. The hand sanitizer I use everyday is the one in Alexander dining hall.  When heading to breakfast, the hand sanitizer is like the friend who is always there waiting and caring for you. It wants to be everyone’s helpful and protective friend because everyone on campus is at risk to the virus.The Alexander automatic hand sanitizer is located directly after the worker who swipes your card. This is handy because as soon as your card is put away, a spray of bleach free sanitizer is obtained simply by waving your hand underneath the machine. When taken into account the true convenience of it, it is almost a shame not to use. It’s intriguing design magically senses your hand and provides quick and easy protection for one’s health.

The assembly of the hand sanitizer dispenser with its thin stand, has a build similar to a skinny little boy. At the bottom of its assembly it starts as a silver circular metal base very capable of supporting the rest of the assembly. The base creates a circular shield around the slippery area of the ground where sprays miss open hands and cover the floor. The circular base design seems efficient with its multi role as being the support for the assembly and an injury preventer for the people. A thin metal bar then comes up out of the base to hold the container of hand sanitizer itself. Looking at the bar it leans forward as if limp and struggling to support the weight of the heavy reservoir. Attached to the top of the pole is the hand sanitizer dispenser itself. It is a white rectangular plastic box, a bit taller than my hand, with blue writing on it. Attached behind the white container is a blue display, similar to a peacocks outstretched feathers, with white writing that seems to yell,

I’m right here!sanitizer2

However it truly says,

Clorox bleach-free touchless hand sanitizer.

All right, sounds convenient, what else?

Kills over 99.999% of germs.

This sounds quite efficient. An interesting part about these words is how they stick to the point in stating what it is and what it does while hiding much of the dispenser’s feelings and details.  As you hold your hand underneath it, a blue light comes on indicating it has magically sensed your hand. At the same time it sprays the perfect amount needed to thoroughly clean two hands, not too much and not too little.  The liquid has a faint but piercing smell and is shockingly cold until rubbed in. An attached sign placed there by the dining hall personnel reads, “Hand sanitizer provided for your convenience.” The entire assembly,

  • the base,
  • the pole,
  • the container,
  • and the peacock part,

come up to my shoulders and are all a part of the common goal in being convenient.

While observing the daily public usage of the dispenser, I found that it gives a lot more than it receives. Some people walk right on by as if it doesn’t matter, or like it’s someone not good enough for them. They walk right by and ignore that such an easy convenience to benefitting their health doesn’t even exist. There is often groups of people who either all use the hand sanitizer or none of them do. I saw a group of 5 people leaving the dining hall laughing and talking, walking right past the dispenser. This was until one of the guys, realizing he had done so and forgot about his health, ran back in a hurry. He ran as though it was his health’s last chance and he needed to save himself although just recently he devoured five pieces of chocolate cake.

sanitizer+magnessMany times one person in the group has to be the instigator and make the first move towards the dispenser in order for the rest of the group to do so. It is treated like one of those helpful little skinny kids that everyone is unsure as to whether or not talking to him is cool. He stands there all day, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even all throughout the night with one purpose, to be helpful.

He is also occasionally abused like a little frail boy. I witnessed a guy wave his hand underneath the dispenser expecting it to immediately work, but it hadn’t sensed his hand. He swiftly waved his hand underneath it again, and as the same happened, he immediately smacked the side of the container with force almost knocking it over. The guy went about his business and the dispenser had to immediately forgive and forget about him and report directly to the commands of the next user.

During my observation of breakfast, I was one of the first people to enter the dining hall. As anticipated, the dispenser was in its place and waiting to kindly start off my day free of the H1N1 virus. As I placed my right hand underneath the dispenser, it activated, made its distinct screeching noise, blinked its green light, but I felt nothing. The reservoir level read “empty” and so I sat and waited to see the public’s reaction to this. The hand sanitizer received an average number of 7 people per 5 minutes during breakfast, and among these were two girls who walked in with joyous intentions to receive some hand sanitizer. They placed their hands underneath and observed that it appeared to operate correctly with its green light and “eeeeeeoowwweeeeee” noise. However, no hand sanitizer came out and so they began waving their hands madly underneath it as if trying to wake it from a deep sleep. Their lack of hygiene seemed to be a true dilemma as they had developed a need for the daily friendliness and reliability of the dispenser. They discussed finding the other dispenser in the hall, but came to the conclusion of notifying the lady at the cash register. After a few minutes the lady had replaced the supply of sanitizer, and the day could go on for these girls.

The Alexander automatic hand sanitizer dispenser provides countless successful cases of healthy meals. Being efficient and convenient in many different ways, it becomes taken advantage of, but always performs to the best of its ability. It is like a little convenient friend we all have. For those who do not use it, they are putting themselves at risk for they could be killing over 99.999% percent of the germs capable of containing a virus. As these mini health stations grow in popularity, they may appear goofy, but could possibly be the difference between 50 and 500 cases of the dreaded swine flu.