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Hey "Lady". Come back and flush the toilet.

June 12, 2013

It’s the first Monday of June 2013, and I’ve just arrived at the office after spending a great deal of my morning in traffic caused by drivers who seem to have taken e-driving lessons (probably via Google). As if the traffic is not enough to drive me insane, I have to go to the Airport to deliver a parcel that I couldn’t deliver to the Airline’s town office on time due to the same traffic I’m talking about. I get to the airport and call the gentleman I have been asked to deliver the parcel to and fortunately, he was expecting me. He directs me to where I’m supposed to wait for him and tells me he is on his way.

Ten minutes later the guy still hasn’t come and so I decide to call him. Fortunately he picks up my call but what he tells me leaves me speechless…. “Ooops! I totally forgot you were waiting for me…” It is a Monday indeed!

Out of the airport, and I’m back on the highway heading to the office. As expected, the e-drivers are still on the road and after wasting many more minutes, I reach my destination. On the way however, I see this odd spectacle; four Arabs and two camels. In my head I’m thinking to myself, has traffic become this much of a menace that guys have decided to revert to old technology? Well, it is a Monday indeed!

But seriously, jokes aside, something needs to be done about this Dar traffic before it results into a complete halt like it once did in China, where it lasted for 12 days and was 100 Kms long. Each day the vehicles used to move roughly 4 Kms a day, until finally the traffic was unclogged. Anyway I digress.

Seeing the camels somewhat lightened up my day and I thought things would be better from there on. Now, having spent hours and hours in traffic since I left home at 6.30am, by the time I was arriving at the office six hours later I was all tired and hungry. But the one place I really needed to visit was the little ladies room. I dashed there and found all the three cubicles occupied! Unbelievable! Yep, you guessed it; It was a Monday indeed! Could things get any worse? As I waited for at least one to fall vacant, I convinced my mind that things were not so bad and that I had good control of my muscles. Fortunately one of them fell vacant and I rushed in there like I was on fire. I almost rushed out again at the scenario I found, but couldn’t because my condition was really bad; I had taken lots of water.

After I was done, and as I was washing my hands I couldn’t help but wonder, kwani how were some people brought up? How can you use such a vital facility and not even bother to do the simplest thing, leave it clean for the next person (who could still be you maybe an hour later)? What if roles had been reversed, and she is the one who found a messed up toilet, how would she have felt? The most ironic thing is that this is a person who runs a personal branding company, and when you see her, you can’t imagine she is capable of doing something that uncouth! Looks can really be deceiving.

As I walked back to my office I remembered an article I once read in one Kenyan newspaper, written by a very great speaker and online buzz creator known as Sunny Bindra. The title of the article was “One of the secrets of national success – clean toilets”. When I read it then it didn’t have such a great impact on me, but after my toilet experience, it suddenly hit me how true and wise Sunny’s words were then and still are now.

To quote him, “To have clean toilets, you have to have three things: One: a very high standard of cleanliness that is not negotiable downwards; two: process integrity that allows you to keep the toilets clean, day after day; three; a culture in which ordinary people feel the need for cleanliness in themselves, without reminders or enforcement from above…”

In reality what this means is that for public toilets to be kept clean, the cleanliness factor has to start with you, the individual using that facility. If you cannot clean up after yourself, then it means you are very unlikely to be able to have standards in other areas of your life. Hygiene should be part of your DNA. It should be a basic human component and when you do not get it right, it means your foundation for all other areas of your life may not be flawed. Besides, how do you think people view you after they realize you are unhygienic? To say the truth, it is very hard for me now to see this lady in a different light.

Besides the element of hygiene, there is also the respect factor. When you use the bathroom/toilet and you don’t clean up after yourself, what does that say about what you think of the person who will clean it up after you? It means you have no respect for them, you have no appreciation for the work they do; it means you belittle their position as a toilet cleaner and undermine their existence.

Take a minute to think about this; what if these people were not there to clean up after you? What if these people were not there to clean the toilets every morning before you get to work, for you to find them clean when you get in? Leave alone the toilet, what if the office cleaner did not clean the office you sit in every day, or wipe the table you use every day? We need to treat each other with respect, even though we may work at different levels. We need to be thoughtful and mindful of each other’s welfare. You may not be the one doing the odd and dirty jobs, but it could have been you.

Besides the fact that you would be making the cleaner’s life and work easier, you would also be promoting hygiene and ensuring the next person who comes after you finds a clean environment in which to conduct their very important business. Imagine how great this would be, if we all made sure we left the toilets sparkling clean. In fact, not just the toilets but what if we were to leave everywhere we visit better than we found it? Think about that positive effects this would produce.

Wishing you all a hygienic week as you ensure you leave every toilet you visit this week (and forever more) as clean as you found it, if not cleaner and better.

PS: Article published in Tanzania's Guardian on Sunday on the 9th June, 2013, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words"

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