Jon Stewart, among others, took a few minutes to poke fun at Anderson Cooper when it was demonstrated to him that his Blackberry was contaminated with fecal strep. I wasn’t even a little bit surprised—not because I think Cooper is more unsanitary than the average person; I don’t. In fact, I’d be far more surprised to find out that it was relatively uncommon to find some kind of fecal contamination on most cell phones. My hypothesis is based on using the ladies room at work. Not one day goes by when I don’t encounter someone in the bathroom on their phone. Mostly, because I work at a university and the largest age demographic is between 18-25, they’re texting but many of them are actually carrying on conversations in the bathroom. In the stall.
I can see a logical reason why Anderson Cooper’s phone might make the trek with him to the bathroom. He’s Anderson Cooper. You can probably envision a scenario in which not getting that phone call right NOW might have an impact on his career, or at least the current story he’s working on. It wouldn’t take a great deal of imagination to come up with logical reasons for, say, President Obama, Thomas Freiden (director of the CDC), your local police chief, or maybe even Sarah Palin might need to keep their cell phone handy at ALL times (“What’s that? There’s a pie eating contest in Iowa displaying a cardboard cutout of Mitt Romney and I wasn’t invited??? Get everybody on the bus, quick!!”) but the vast majority of us do not fall into that Need to Know NOW category of life. This is almost certainly the case if you are 19. You can wait 5 minutes to get that call or text. It isn’t going anywhere, I promise.
Anything you take with you into the bathroom risks fecal contamination, and it doesn’t have anything (or much, anyway) to do with washing your hands. Every time the toilet is flushed, miniscule droplets are propelled into the air by the force of the water entering the bowl and flushing whatever it finds there down the drain. The force of this water is generally higher in public bathrooms, creating more aerosolized water. That water is contaminated with whatever has been in the toilet bowl recently and if you can’t foresee fecal matter having been in the average toilet, you probably aren’t old enough to be allowed outside the house unsupervised. Or to have a cell phone. It is not in your best interest to take anything you don’t have to into the bathroom stall with you, and this is especially true of anything you repeatedly hold up next to your face throughout the day.