People talk about the evils of big business, big tobacco, big pharma, big hospitals and all the other “big” that seem to be monopolizing our lives. After watching my son I have to now add “big latex” to the list.
When I was a kid the only rubber gloves I remember people having in their homes were a pair of thicker yellow gloves with fuzzy liners that some women used to ward off “dishpan hands.” I don’t recall my mother using those or anything other than her bare hands to wash dishes, kill a chicken, mop the bathroom floor, or scrub the tub and toilet.
In high school, I worked for a local veterinarian and there was nothing we did that didn’t involve large amounts of animal feces, urine, blood, and all kinds of mean and nasty things. Yet, other than a few pairs of dirty yellow cotton work gloves we went gloveless. I can’t remember a mechanic wearing rubber mechanic’s gloves, a carpenter wearing red and black carpenter gloves, or a dentist donning his facemask or his latex gloves. The only people I recall wearing rubber or latex gloves were surgeons.
As a senior in high school, I worked for the school’s maintenance department and I was low-man on the totem pole. Anytime something shitty came along the word went forth, “send Chapman!” I’ve unattached, carried, suffered numerous humiliations carrying broken porcelain thrones through study hall on the way to the repair shop. And, I never ever considered wearing rubber gloves. Until I made rate in the Navy it was every flunkies job to scrub down the heads. So several times a week I would take my gloveless hands along with a brush, a bucket, and a can of Ajax scouring powder and head for the head on the main deck.
Things have changed greatly since those days. It appears no job can be accomplished today without some sort of specialty glove. Maids can’t dust, dentist can’t dent, mechanics can’t mech, beauticians can’t beaut, plumbers can’t plumb, etc, etc. Speaking of plumbers. Their motto once consisted of three things; shit runs downhill, don’t bite your fingernails, and the eagle flies on Friday. Someone will have to tell me if they’ve added don’t forget your rubbers.
I know we know a lot more about airborne and blood born pathogens these days and I wonder how much the glove industry has used this new knowledge to instill fear in and sell more latex to frightened Americans.
These remembrances came to me following my asking our son to replace the neoprene washers that help hold the toilet lit in place. I picked up a set of washers but before the job got started he added latex gloves on the shopping list. His reason was a sense that once he touched a toilet whatever his bare fingers contacted would then and forever become a part of his DNA.
In the meanwhile, for whatever time I have left in this world I will not be wearing gloves and continue trusting in a bar of Ivory and some hot water. Oh, and maybe the occasional squirt of Purell and not biting my nails.