Many people invest in little fridge magnets, pens, and notepads with their business name stamped on them, hoping to imprint their name upon you so that when you need their expertise they are top of mind. They hope to be the first business you think of; the one you call. This does not work on me. Possibly it seldom works on most people but it is likely a good tax write off for the company even if they don’t get customers from it. And, of course, they’re giving their business to the companies that are personalizing the products. Even if it doesn’t work they are benefiting someone. However, it does require a budget for all that bric-a-brac. The calendars and pens and mouse pads. So it would be best if it helped their sales, I am sure. And, like I said, whether it works on anyone else or not it doesn’t work on me.
On the other hand, I do use the pens, notepads, flashlights, and magnets. I do use the bric-a-brac. It just doesn’t lead to my being converted from gadget gatherer to customer.
BUT! I have discovered that…
When the gadget solves a problem it just might convert someone else.
You see, I am the dirty girl in the bathroom that doesn’t wash her hands.
Let me explain, aka justify.
Soap hurts my hands.
And before you roll your eyes, understand that carrying soap and/or lotion in my handbag has proven difficult in the airports (and I am in the airports a lot). For example, certain lotions make your hands read on the security instruments as if you have been playing with explosives. (If you didn’t know that already word of advice: Do not use hotel lotion before flying.) I fly almost weekly. Thus I am efficient in my arrival times and often do not have time for the third degree security shake down.
Additionally, since I am a last minute pack and run kind of girl and moisturizing soap isn’t top of mind, I often forget it. I wanted something I could always have at the ready without setting off security alarms and so sanitizer became my go to solution.
Except it wasn’t. It hurt my hands.
As do baby wipes, makeup remover wipes, and several oils.
I finally found a pen sanitizer that worked. Or rather, it found me by hanging out in a financial expert’s grab bag at an event for women.
Fortunately, Marilyn Suey (the money expert) had enough to share with the speakers at the event, of which I was one. While sitting on the toilet I found myself going through the grab bag and trying the special pen sanitizer. Not only were my hands clean, they were also comfortable. I felt as if I had won the lottery! I then noted that it would have been better to use it after I went to the washroom and I established my future habit.
And that is how I became the dirty girl that doesn’t wash her hands.
Habits are established fairly quickly but they are shaped and reshaped over time.
Initially I just looked like the dirty girl that voided and then left the room without washing her hands.
Then one day I overheard someone say I was disgusting and considered caring more about what they thought than the truth of the situation. Perhaps, instead of cleaning after leaving the bathroom, I should use the sanitizer in an obvious fashion as I exited?
Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t.
Sometimes, I get a certain satisfaction out of the uninformed judgments of others. After all, I am in the airport and there is not a lot of fun to be had while waiting to board a plane.
I either do not go to the wash basin after eliminating in a public restroom and use my fancy pen after I leave (especially if people are staring and seem judgmental) or, if there are children watching, I fake wash with water only and then use the pen while sitting at the gate.
One day, as I pretended to wash my hands, a young girl of about five or six who was watching the adults surrounding her (possibly in search of the reasons behind the fluctuating rules), told her mom that I had not used soap.
My little game of rebelling against the judgments of others had backfired. I care about children. I work with children. I model for children. A lot.
Truth is, I believe in hand washing and want children to have it as a healthy habit.
In that moment I realized that this little girl may have the same problem as me and need the same solution. Perhaps she was watching the adults in search of a way NOT to use soap. And there it was. My opportunity to help. I love that.
I pulled out the pen and told her mom the story. We used the sanitizer together and the little girl said it helped her hands. Mom asked who Marilyn Suey was and I shared that she was a wonderful new friend with great financial advice. The mom wrote her name and number down and we parted ways, rushing to catch our respective planes.
I have now repeated this advertisement dance countless times and whether Marilyn gets clients from it or not, I got an important lesson. And so, too, do many of the bathroom patrons.
We chat and share tips. Sometimes we share cultural differences over sanitation and often refer experts in various fields. The pen has truly written a different story in my life even though it contains no ink. And though I still don’t invest in bric-a-brac in order to spread my name I am doubly convinced of the importance of testimonials. But even more than testimonials I am reinvested in people. My life has grown better from the power of intimate bathroom chatter and all the connections made, in this, the unlikeliest of places. We connect over explanations and the sharing of ideas rather than separate over assumptions and preexisting prejudices. We connect even though, or rather because, I pass through life not washing my hands right in front of them.
I stopped behaving like a shock jock and drawing their stares in order to entertain myself. I also stopped deluding myself into thinking they deserved it, that it was their fault for judging me, when they were only thinking what I set them up to believe in the first place.
Thank you, Marilyn. Without my ever hiring you, you improved my life just by being you.
And that is my lesson to hold on to. Be myself but do it out loud. Use the pen in front of them. Talk about it. Use it again after I leave and talk about that, too.
Do this, and every behavior I believe in, with comfort.
That way I will not be to blame for the misunderstandings that come my way. But will, instead, get the credit for the truth I represent.