Tuesday, January 6, 2015

What You Shouldn't Have Touched Your Lips to on New Year's Eve

Happy 2015, everyone!

And I hope you didn't catch anything while partying on New Year's Eve.

I spent New Year's Eve managing a comedy club. And, as usual, I handed out noisemakers to the customers when our late show ended, just before midnight.

I'm sure that many customers don't realize that many of the hats and noisemakers were left over from last year. You see, the profit margin in the club and restaurant business isn't great. If you can save a few dollars by picking up the hats and noisemakers customers leave behind, you probably do so. And you save them for next year.

I, however, don't recycle the horns. Once someone has put their lips on it, if they don't take it with them, it goes in the trash. I recycle the hats, and the manual noisemakers, like ratchet-spinners and those weird clapping hands that became popular a few years back.

But some restaurants and clubs recycle everything. Worse, they don't even store them hygienically.

I wrap my leftover hats and noisemakers back in the plastic bags they came in. Then I store the whole thing in a sealed plastic storage box, and put it away for next year.

But I've seen places that just throw them in an open box and stuff it in a storage room. Next to the sticky traps for rats and mice. I wouldn't want to put my lips on a horn that had been sitting in a dusty closet for a year where rats could crawl over it!

However, there's another issue.

We act under the assumption that the horns that come in a plastic bag are clean and hygienic.

That may not be the case.

It's probably true for things made in the USA. Nowadays. But for cheap horns made overseas? I wouldn't count on it.

And it didn't use to be the case even here in the States.

Years ago, when I was in college, I spent one summer working in a factory that made styrofoam cups.

It was an awful factory job. The company supplied each worker with earplugs because of the never-ending noise. And they had to hire four people for each open position. They knew that three of those four would quit before their first shift was over! THAT'S how unpleasant this job was.

To make matters worse, I was hired for the swing shift. One week on the morning shift, next week on the evening shift, next week on the overnight shift. And repeat. The factory was unheated and without air conditioning, so it was cold at night and blistering hot in the day.

I stuck it out for most of a summer. The pay wasn't great, but it was better than most jobs I could get as a nineteen-year-old.

My job was to stand at a machine, scoop up two stacks of styrofoam cups as they came off the line, and seal them in a plastic bag. (Over and over, for eight hours.)

What surprised me was that no one washed their hands. To stack them quickly, you put your dirty fingers or thumbs inside the cups. And the factory bosses didn't care as long as your hands weren't so grimy that you left dark fingerprints on the white cups!

I knew that no one washed a styrofoam cup that they took out of a sealed bag. They assumed it was sterile. These weren't.

Well, that factory is long gone now. (Last I heard it was a superfund site, from the chemicals they used!) Regulations in the USA have improved, so I assume sealed-in-plastic cups are clean now.

But items made overseas? In countries like China, which have seemingly-endless scandals about lead paint and other pollutants in products?

I wouldn't count on it.

So I'd recommend grabbing a noisemaker that you don't have to put your lips on, next New Year's Eve. Or buying one of your own, beforehand, and cleaning it yourself.

As to whose lips you put yours upon at midnight...well, that's up to you!

Happy New Year.