“Open Everything. The time to end pandemic restrictions is now.”
The Atlantic, 2/9/22

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When the COVID-19 pandemic first struck, I was among the many that said we should cancel everything. But it’s 2022 now. It’s time to stop living in fear and return to normal. It’s time we end all this unnecessary hygiene theater and go back to taking a shit and not washing our hands.

In the early days of COVID, I listened to the science and acquiesced. We didn’t know the nature of the virus, so it was understandable to exercise caution and wash our hands after taking a dump. But it’s been over two years. How much longer are we going to have to keep using soap and water? It feels like there’s no end in sight, and frankly, I’m burned out on the whole thing.

Critics will say that American life is largely as it was pre-pandemic and that washing your hands after you poop is something you learn to do when you’re potty-trained. While it’s true that practically everything is open for business and mask mandates are being lifted in even the bluest states regardless of case numbers or risk to the immunocompromised and elderly, there is still a lingering specter of shame that casts a heavy shadow over those that choose not to wear a mask indoors or rub their soapy hands under warm water after taking a particularly explosive shit.

Personally, I’m tired of being made to feel guilty by COVID scolds when I come out of the Trader Joe’s bathroom, hands smelling of fresh fecal matter. As I go about my regular shopping routine of groping every single piece of produce, I can feel my fellow shoppers silently judging me. “It’s just not fair that I’m imagining you’re mad at me!” I shout, until the manager comes over and asks if there’s a problem.

I inform the manager that I just took a giant BM and touched everything, doing my best to remind them of the “bathroom fatigue” we all feel from having to wash our hands after we poop for the past few years. As I’m escorted out of the store, I hear someone get on the loudspeaker and inform customers that the store has been contaminated—despite the incontrovertible fact that fewer humans get sick from interacting with another person’s excrement today than at any other point in human history.

Somehow, my stool has shut down an entire Trader Joe’s, despite the fact that I only handled the produce and not the Joe’s O’s or cans of turkey chili. Besides, there is a scientific consensus that the risk of serious illness or death from touching someone else’s turds is minimal. And since there’s minimal risk, no reasonable person should have a problem eating a mango or a carrot I touched with my soiled hands. When I returned the next day to show the manager all the fecal toxicity reports I’ve collected, I was swiftly banned for life from all Trader Joe’s locations—blatantly violating my personal freedom.

Speaking of freedom, my heart goes out to the workers forced to abide by these ridiculous and overly restrictive rules. “Employees must wash hands before returning to work.” Must wash hands?! This is America. We don’t have to “must” anything. Besides, how do businesses expect to enforce this? Some kind of bathroom monitor that checks everyone’s hands for brown streaks? Society coming to a collective understanding that this simple act can greatly reduce the spread of germs and disease and just agreeing to do it for everyone’s benefit? That’s hardly feasible.

But as always, the real victims here are the children. They just want to run outside and play during recess, and forcing them to wash their hands for forty-five seconds has taken an immeasurable toll on their psyche. By insisting our children painstakingly scrub all flecks of shit off their grubby little hands day after day after day, we’re causing irreparable damage to their mental health.

We have to accept the fact that we will never get to the fabled “COVID zero” or the mythical “everyone is washing their hands after they wipe their assholes.” To live a free and happy life, one must take calculated risks when it’s worth taking them, lest the cure (washing your hands after interacting with your anus) be worse than the disease (e. coli, salmonella, hepatitis A and E, etc.). So let’s choose joy over worry, science over fear, blasting shit out your ass and walking straight from the toilet to your dinner table over just washing your goddamn hands first.

End the pandemic malaise. No more performative basic hygiene. Open everything.