Philip Maramba: Are your hands 'Auntie Joy clean'? (Opinion)

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Even before I began working for the government, I was an emergency manager — I just didn’t know it.

I pretty much got my start once I began issuing this order whenever the family would return home from someplace: “Take off your shoes and wash your hands!”

The memories are still fresh of the kids tracking in dirt and mud and who knows what else from trips to town or the woods. (The memories are fresh because they happened within the past month.)

That said, while the kids have gotten better at not picking up random objects off the ground, their mom and I still have to remind them like the proverbial broken record to wash up before meals or after using the bathroom.

The crazy part is discovering that every parenting cliche regarding this hygienic practice is true.

“Did you use soap?”

“I don’t hear water running.”

“You call that washing?”

In the event of a particularly careless execution, I’ll ask, “Are they Auntie Joy clean?” That’s when they know I mean business.

My sister is a professor at the West Virginia University School of Nursing and a critical care nurse. She’s also that aunt who doesn’t let anything slide. So when those worlds collide at the bathroom sink, yeah, my kids’ hands are probably clean enough to perform surgery after she’s done with them.

In light of growing concerns with the coronavirus, my wife and I have been especially aware of tics we all share, like touching our face and rubbing our eyes, that can lead to infection. Those are hard enough habits for adults to break, but with children? Hoo-boy. It’s all we can do to get them to chew with their mouths closed; keeping them from a natural reaction, like rubbing their eye when it itches, seems a titanic struggle.

So again, we fall back on the washing of hands.

As a way of helping carry out my sister’s mission to improve health in the state, as well as carrying out the mission of my own agency to help before, during and after disasters, I found an occasion to help spread the hand-washing gospel this week when a social media post caught my eye.

A food and travel writer in Minnesota shared a Baltimore optometrist’s tweet that read: “Maryland Coronavirus Prevention: Wash your hands like you need to take your contact lenses out and you just finished eating crabs.” Funny, right?

This inspired the Minnesota writer to post that we need more region-specific hand-washing tips. Trying to think of things uniquely West Virginian, my mind first went to the beloved pepperoni roll, but there wasn’t anything particularly hand-washy about them, aside from maybe grease.

Then it hit me: What other Mountain State delicacy would require a thorough scrub-down with soap and water? Surely, the humble ramp would fill the bill.

That spring-time staple of church and volunteer fire department fundraising dinners packs a pungent, sulfurous punch. Cousin to the green onion, fried in bacon grease and served with ham and potatoes, it’s a powerfully aromatic side dish. But, man, once ingested, it’s in your pores and on the breath in a most conspicuous fashion. (Don’t ever leave a batch raw in your car on a hot day like a former journalist I know.)

Armed with this knowledge, I crafted a short, pithy response: “Wash your hands like you’ve been handling fresh ramps.”

Given my non-existent social media influencer status, I was fairly pleased with the modest number of “likes” and shares the post received. It was nice to see a gentle public service announcement resonate with the home audience.

Bearing in mind the SARS and Ebola scares of the past decade, and seeing cases of coronavirus make their way inland, I’m considering this global pandemic with a little less flippancy and a little more caution.

While I’m probably going to bypass the facemask as a preventative treatment when out and about, I am going to take extra care in how I perform an everyday task and work to get my hands “Auntie Joy clean.”

Philip Maramba is a former managing editor of the Charleston Daily Mail. He now works in government public affairs.

Funerals for Thursday, July 9, 2020

Ankrom, Vada - 1 p.m., Bartlett-Nichols Funeral Home, St. Albans.

Dillard, Helen - 11 a.m., Gatens-Harding Funeral Home, Poca.

Greenlee, Margaret - 10 a.m., Bellemead United Methodist Church.

Harper, Carl - 10 a.m., Matics Funeral Home, Clendenin.

Humphrey, Connie - Noon, Restlawn Memory Gardens, Victor.  

Justice, Thelma - 1 p.m., Evans Funeral Home, Chapmanville.

Lanham, Kathy - 1 p.m., Long & Fisher Funeral Home, Sissonville.

McDerment, Randall - 1 p.m., Leonard Johnson Funeral Home, Marmet.

Russell, Michael - 4 p.m., Morris Funeral Home, Cowen.

White, Thomas - 11 a.m., St. Anthony Catholic Church, Charleston.