It was Brighton, UK in the summer of 1987. The framed needlepoint notice above the seaside B&B throne read "And now, wash your hands!" Fast-forward thirty-three years and the illuminated signs on Hwy 401 in southern Ontario say the same thing. "Wash your hands."
Although hand washing is a pretty regular thing to be doing in the real estate world, coming and going from a variety of houses and other places, I have to admit hand sanitizer was something I'd never really thought about.
March 2020: In light of the growing coronavirus pandemic I spent a lot of time visiting a variety of supermarkets, phamacies and dollar stores - searching for hand sanitizer. "You're dreaming," they'd tell me.
My wife handed me a big bottle of Aloe Vera Gel "after sun" goo, and told me to make my own hand sanitizer for the road. "Just mix 3/4 cup alcohol with 1/4 cup of the green goo," she said. Okay, I had a little leftover 99.9% methyl hydrate from the last RV project, but only a little bit - so off I go hunting alcohol... no such animal.
Turns out I was looking in all the wrong places! A stumble-upon at a hardware store led me to the paint section where every manner of alcohol lives. Duhh! It's the same section where I got alcohol every other time. It's almost the same as grocery store or pharmacy alcohol, in a different wrapper, under a slightly different name.
While thoroughly washing your hands still remains the single most effective way to get rid of germs, having a bottle of sanitizer in your toolbag or briefcase is certainly not a bad idea these days. Having the opportunity to bring some with you when you venture out of isolation, to do something that forces you to touch things that untold numbers of other people already touched, is no less than a gift.
Washing the skin off your hands.
Fast forward another two weeks, and the backs of my hands looked like parchment paper (that's what happens when you get old... oh, to be a greasy-haired teenager again!)
I was lucky enough to get the next-to-last haircut in Ontario on March 16th, and get my summer tires installed on the same day! The tire shop owner always wears those cool-looking black nitrile gloves, presumably to have an after-hours life free of rubber and brake pad dust, and the sickening odour of gear oil. I asked him where he gets his gloves. "From our tire supplier," he answered, and offered to give me an surplus, unused box of nitrile gloves labeled "large" which didn't fit me any better than anyone working at the garage.
After a bleary late-night, exhaustive search on the internet from Amazon to Zinburger, I got to thinking about automotive supply stores. Down the road, around the corner and across the street I go to the nearest motorhead shop. "Last aisle, down near the back," says a friendly guy at the counter (also wearing spiffy black gloves!) If you've ever heard the angels sing, you know what I'm talking about. There I was, in rubber glove heaven, my only issue being a matter of choice. Four, five, six or 8 mil, latex or nitrile? Powdered or not? Textured palms for better grip? Orange, blue, black or purple, to suit anyone's wardrobe preference!
I chose the black Grease Monkey brand in XL size, I think because I was impressed by the gorilla on the packaging art. You don't get to open the box or try them on until you buy them, but the box wrapper has a handy size chart - which also left me feeling a little less dumb. Never thought of it before, but apparently a hand width of 3.9 to 4.4 inches is defined as "XL" and 4.4 and up is XXL.
Okay, now I know.
Gil Strachan is a professional home inspector, representing Electrospec Home Inspection Services in east-central Ontario since 1994.