Barry Saunders

Saunders: Give Thom Tillis a hand for this novel idea – but wash that hand first, please

Yo, Sen., I’m with you on this one, buddy.

Like Thom Tillis, our newly elected U.S. senator, I, too, am bothered by the signs in restaurant rest rooms that say “employees must wash hands” before exiting. (Most, inexplicably, don’t say whose hands employees must wash.)

Unlike Thom Transmissable, whose disdain for government regulations seemingly has him blissfully unconcerned about the spread of E. coli and other contagious diseases – and has North Carolinians lying and claiming that we’re from the other Carolina – my opposition to the sign is that it is too limiting. It should require everybody to wash his or her hands before leaving the restroom.

Actually, really, truly

In case you missed it, Tillis actually, really, truly said he’d “have no problem with” companies that choose to “opt out” of requiring employees to wash their hands after going to the bathroom.

While listening to Tillis on C-SPAN on Tuesday at the Bipartisan Policy Center, I was thinking “Please don’t say he’s from North Carolina. Please don’t say he’s from North Carolina. Please don’t ...”

No such luck, as Thom Ptomaine recounted being “at a Starbucks ... sitting back at a table that was near the restroom, and one of the employees just came out.”

In response to his companion’s query on government regulations requiring employee hand-washing, Tillis said he said, “Let an industry opt out, as long as they indicate through proper disclosure” that they don’t require employees to wash their hands after leaving the restroom. The market will take care of that” because those businesses will likely go belly up.

So will many of us – go belly up while being treated for dysentery after being served by a cook for whom commonsense hygiene is optional.

Aside from being such a stimulating conversationalist and dining companion, Tillis is also no fan of irony: He’ll require a sign requiring businesses to tell us they don’t require employees to wash their hands. Hoo boy.

Here’s another irony: a pol who wants to get government out of the bathroom has no problem with putting it in the bedroom.

I, unlike many others, refuse to refer to our senator as Typhoid Thom, though he does seem to be philosophical kin to Typhoid Mary, a cook who spread diseases in the 1900s because of her contempt for cleanliness.

Repeated efforts to get a comment from the senator’s office or from Starbucks’ headquarters were unsuccessful: Both apparently wish to – forgive me for this – wash their hands of the whole thing.

Relying on the market

Far from disparaging Tillis, let us praise – if nothing else – his consistency. Just as he thinks employees washing their hands before leaving the loo should be driven by the market, he thinks the money that those clean-handed restaurant workers make should be driven by the same thing – the market.

Asked about the minimum wage last year at the beginning of his campaign to unseat Kay Hagan, he said, “We need to have the market define what an employer is going to pay. ... I think you should consider anything that frees up the market, that creates more jobs.”

Great day in the morning!

Of optional hand-washing, Tillis said, “That’s the sort of mentality we need to have to reduce the regulatory burden. ... We’re one of the most regulated nations in the history of the planet.”

There may be areas where government regulations are over-reaching and oppressive, but the food industry is not one. If anything, there we need more regulations, not fewer. For instance, when I dine at a high-class buffet restaurant, I’d pay extra if they’d hire a bathroom bouncer to pelt with rubber biscuits anyone who tries to leave without thoroughly washing his or her hands.

In politics, it’s never too early to start campaigning for re-election. Barely a month into his first term, it’s safe to assume that Tillis has a lock on the filthy-fingered philistines’ vote for 2020.

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