Adapting new handwashing solutions
Considering its microscopic size, it's amazing how the novel coronavirus has easily kept us humans -- the species which rules the planet -- tamely at bay. Millions of people around the globe are now spending time confining themselves at home rather than venturing outside. As a result, various aspects of life, from finance to romance and so much in between, need to change. Some of these behavioural changes have already become or are predicted to become, the so-called new normal.
Of all the new habits resulting from Covid-19, I genuinely wish one would stay on after the pandemic is finally over: hand washing.
Yes, I love singing the Happy Birthday song (they say repeating the song twice as you clean your hands with soap ensures that the virus will be thoroughly rinsed off), however, it's not just that. Together with wearing face masks, hand washing is widely known as one of the easiest and most effective measures to protect oneself from the coronavirus or any other germs. If the majority of people, especially in big cities like Bangkok, stick with this hygienic practice, perhaps we may not be so vulnerable should another epidemic break out in the future.
To make this possible, washing of hands should be made easier. I mean we should be able to do it even while roaming the street without having to search for a toilet in a nearby shopping mall or office building.
I bet a lot of Bangkokians have forgotten that some of the city's footpaths like those along Sukhumvit Road are equipped with drinking fountains. Most, if not all, of these neglected facilities, which date back over two decades, are covered with thick dust. But the fact is, despite their unappealing look, not all of them are out of order. Many still serve as crucial sources of water for street vendors and the homeless.
As far as I know, at least one on Ratchadaphisek Road, a short walk south of the Asok intersection, is still functioning. A few months before the coronavirus outbreak, I was visually examining it to determine if it still had water in the tap so I could wash the sticky fishball sauce off my fingers. Just then, I heard a homeless man resting at the adjacent roofed bus stop saying to me: "Just press that knob."
In one short sentence, not only did he confirm that the facility was still functioning, but he also taught me how to use it. I thanked my new friend with a grateful smile. Without his advice, I might have not trusted the fountain and instead may have decided to walk with gooey fingers all the way to the public toilet in nearby Benjakitti Park instead.
Wouldn't it be nice if all the existing roadside drinking fountains, which belong to the Metropolitan Waterworks Authority, undergo major maintenance and if possible are fitted with pedal-controlled faucets? Maybe, even more fountains should be installed in the city, like at either end of every BTS and MRT station, boat piers, in front of government buildings, temples, schools and maybe even banks and private businesses seeking a CSR initiative.
Would any of those mentioned agree with the idea? I cannot tell. Maybe I should go back to that caring vagabond gentleman and discuss the matter with him first.
Pongpet Mekloy is the Bangkok Post's travel editor and a mountain bike freak.