Figuratively speaking. While the swine flu scare was at its peak, our office slept through it, baselessly assured that the employees’ immunity systems were strong enough to resisit the disease. And now that the worst of the scare is over, they are bombarding our mailboxes with long, warning messages on symptoms, primary treatment and whatnot, putting up notices all over the office and ordering Dettol liquid soap as a substitute for the mild pink liquid that used to fill our dispensers. We received a circular via email the day before that solicited our cooperation in helping the organisation keep the swine flu out. How you ask? By spreading our hands in front of the security guard when entering the office. No kidding. You spread your hands in front of the khakhi clad man, he sprays a small amount of blue coloured hand sanitizer. You rub your hands together and walk in enveloped in a distinctly lemony smell. If you go from one floor to another or if you exit the building and return, you are expected to have your hands sanitized again each time. The admin department is obviously –a-very keen on ensuring not a single swine flu germ enters the building and –b- ignorant. The hands aren’t the only way germs can get in. Having taken so long to wake up to the flu, for all we know the germs are already in. But who is to argue with the bull headed admin? We do as directed.
The first “hand sanitizing” day can be described as fun. We walked through the door way, one by one, holding our palm against our nose, inhaling the refreshing lemon fragrance and goofily smiling at each other, our eyes twinkling. We looked like fools. I am sure of it. Where have you ever seen so many adults get amused by such a regular thing? I mean just how exciting is a hand sanitizer?! Very, if you ask us. At least it is very exciting on day 1. By day 3 its neither fun nor exciting. It actually gets to becoming a leeetle annoying and very embarrassing. I come to office with a largish hand bag, an umbrella and another small bag that carries my lunch. With three things to cart, my hands are full. Extending my palm towards the security guy means major readjustment of luggage prior to the action. That’s the annoying part. The embarrassing part is queuing up for the sanitization exercise. There is only one security guard posted on each floor. He is the one who controls the all important hand sanitizer and when one of the company buses loaded with people reaches the office, you have to patiently stand in a line and wait for your turn with the hand sanitizer before you are allowed to enter. That doesn’t sound like an embarrassing situation and it isn’t, just so long as the guys from the other office are not added to the picture. Once you add them, you have yourself the perfect cocktail for a “socially embarrassing situation”. Our floor is shared by two offices- our’s and some overseas petroleum, petrochemical or some such company . The overseas guys don’t make it any less embarrassing for us when we line up with our palms stretched out. They make sure they stop, stare, smirk and then saunter off to their half of the floor, un-sanitized and uncaring.
Its not just that the hand sanitizing exercise is annoying and embarrassing, the security guard is also doing his bit to make the situation unbearable. In less than 3 days he has completely lost interest in his latest duty as the sanitizer sprayer. He sprays with complete disinterest now. As per admin rules, we are not vested with the authority to touch the sanitizer bottle. It can only be handled by the security guard which means we are at his mercy. The disinterest has reached such levels that often looks elsewhere while doing his duty and carelessly aims the nozzle at any random angle causing a healthy spray of sanitizer to either reached the floor or your feet. But I understand the hand sanitizing job is probably not as challenging as the other things he does, such as forcing unwilling visitors to hang the “visitor” tag around their neck and then directing them to various cubicles, screening the stationary shop errand boys, Pizza Hut and Mainland China delivery boys to ascertain if they are potential terrorists, reading the Mumbai Mirror and chatting with the receptionist,but hey,its his job so he should be doing it right! Personal preferences are never a consideration in any job. Its a simple, uncomplicated deal-you do what they tell you to and at the end of the month they hand you a cheque.
I have survived three “sanitized”days but the promise of more such days leaves me distressed. I am therefore taking the next train out of the city and landing myself in some far flung gaon for ten whole days,extendible to 14. See you guys on the other side of the trip.:)