Written by Annie Laskey, Events Director, Pasadena Senior Center
You know the routine: touch something, wash your hands. Touch something else, wash your hands again. We’ve been told to spend 20 seconds with soap and water each time. Somewhere along the line we were told that singing the Happy Birthday song twice was the right amount of time.
It was my birthday this past Sunday. As I washed my hands, I remembered to sing twice through Happy Birthday to myself. It then occurred to me, how many times have I washed my hands in the last five weeks and NOT sung Happy Birthday? Maybe I wasn’t washing my hands long enough? Was I leaving myself open to infection because I wasn’t singing? Oh no!
Singing is good for you. It fills your lungs, clears your head, and warms your heart. And now we know it also leads to better hygiene. Too few of us sing out loud anymore, mostly out of embarrassment. However, you’re stuck at home now. No one to hear you but your housemates, if you have any. Sing out!
However, a word of advice: if you stick with Happy Birthday (twice) each time you wash your hands, you will likely go insane. In the interests of mental health, for you and others in hearing range, find other 20 second songs. Mix it up. Challenge other people in your household to come up with creative ditties.
In the past few days, I’ve gone on a quest to discover which songs/verses fit into 20 seconds. I pulled song books off shelves. I looked up words on the internet. I had a delightful time singing tons of songs and timing them with the stop watch app on my smart phone (it’s under “clock.”)
I found that a maddening number of songs have verses or choruses that are just a few seconds too short or too long. Turns out that 20 seconds is hard to nail. You can get creative about extending a short song (“White Coral Bells” works if you repeat the last line, “and that will only happen when the fairies sing.”). You can also decide to wash your hands a little longer because “All of Me” (24 seconds) is worth it.
Here is Annie’s Short List of Recommended Hand Washing Songs that Clock in at 20 seconds: “This Land is Your Land” (one stanza or the chorus), “Here Comes Santa Claus,” “Singing in the Rain” (first verse only), “Can’t Buy Me Love” (most Beatles songs clock in at closer to 26 seconds, but this one can be done in 20), “Take Me out to the Ball Game,” “Don’t Fence Me In,” “Amazing Grace,” and the traditional Irish “Molly Malone” and her cockles and mussels alive, alive-o.
What’s your list? What songs did you grow up with? What do you listen to now? As Sesame Street, and the Carpenters, put it: “Don’t worry that it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear, just sing, sing a song!”