So, last year we threw a party at WisCon. One of our must-have items on party supplies was a dispenser of hand sanitizer, just like the one we put out on the sideboard by the food every week when we do D&D. So many communicable diseases can be prevented by washing hands and disinfecting common surfaces; I think we sort of mythologize how much of “airborne” illness comes from breathing in little invisible particles because this puts less onus on us.
So, anyway. Last year we had a little pump of hand sanitizer at the start of the buffet… and most people walked straight past it. We’d point it out, and be told, “Oh, thanks, but I’m good.”
Which sort of misses the point. Sanitizing your hands after touching items shared in common protects you; doing it before protects others. It’s a bit like herd immunity that way.
Of course it’s hard to point that out in the moment without sounding like you’re accusing the specific person of being dirty, but really: you wash your hands before a meal. Even if you in particular don’t do that every time, that’s not a weird thing. It’s a very normal thing. And if your “meal” consists of several quick bites in several different rooms, if you have the chance to do the next best thing to washing your hands…
Anyway. This year I tried to solve the “people don’t like it when you imply they might have germs” thing with a one-two punch. The first one being the use of gentle humor, the second being that I have leveled up in Mom Friend to the point that people sort of expect a little nagging from me. (I’m also the person who threads about downed power lines, hydration, and why you always lock your doors when you’re in a moving vehicle.)
So when I made the flyers for my party, I split them between mere advertisements and PSAs. The PSAs had an image of a twinkling-gauntlet’d hand snapping its fingers and invited the reader to imagine “What if wiping out 50% of Con Crud was as easy as snapping your fingers?”
I was describing the idea for this to my old friend Kari Patch in Chicago when I hit upon the last thing it needed to take it over the finish line: a killer pun. Thus, HAND THANOTIZER was born.
This year we had a lot more people at the party who used the hand sanitizer! And the people who walked past it were a lot more compliant when it was pointed out. Also outside of the party, people took the PSA to heart. I watched someone read one of the posters, pull a little bottle out of their pocket, and clean their hands on the spot. I also heard anecdotally from people who used the con’s provided bottles of hand sanitizer for the first time.
A lot of people also just flat-out told me they enjoyed the humor of it, which is good.
I will admit I had some trepidation about it. First, I didn’t want it to come across judgy. My first draft (which I shared with Twitter) had the word “hygiene”, which sort of rubbed me the wrong way. I had already decided to change it to “safety” when another Twitter user spoke up about it. We didn’t want it to sound like “Hahaha, take a shower, nerds!”, you know?
Anyway. It came off well and people suggested I should do more for next year on other common con bugbears (like reminding people to hydrate).
This is part of why I enjoy acting as a free agent who is a member of the con rather than part of the con-com running it, though. I didn’t run my flyers by anybody. If they’d run afoul of someone or something, they would have come down with a word of explanation but not reflected on the con itself.
I’ll have more to say about the party itself — which was wildly successful — in a later post, probably my next one.