Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Where are the bubbles?

There's something really, really annoying happening at one of the universities where I work, and it's all about soap.

When we moved into the new building, we were delighted to find that the teachers' room had a sink where we could wash our hands. However, there was no soap. The toilets, of course, have soap, but the soap used in there is liquid soap so heavily diluted that you have to pump and pump and pump and even then you're lucky if you can get enough of the watery muck collected in your cupped hand to raise even one bubble. It's more like vaguely soapy water than actual soap. It doesn't get chalk off, and if you use the chalkboard at all (which I do, a lot) your hands are permanently covered in chalk throughout the day. I am not an obsessive hand-washer, but chalk is not pleasant stuff to have on your hands, and while it comes off pretty easily with soap, it doesn't come off with water.

Anyway, instead of requesting soap (which would have probably required a committee meeting to get approval for and taken six months at least) I took in a bar of soap and a soap dish for the teachers' room, and we used that. Some other unknown benefactor(s) or I have been replacing the soap when it runs out for about three years now. But this year, at the beginning of the year, the university suddenly started providing it. I was so pleased. They'd finally understood that teachers don't like having chalky, dirty hands, and that if we have a sink it's logical to also have soap.

But then I tried the new soap.

It's amazing. It's like a rock. You simply cannot get a lather out of this stuff. You pick it up, run the water, and do the whole hand-wringing thing with the soap until you do feel like an obsessive hand-washer, and no matter how much you try you can't get it to produce a single, pathetic bubble. Eventually you give up, and your hands are still covered in yellow chalk. Nothing has changed at all. It's the most remarkably unsoaplike soap I've ever encountered.

This soap has been there since April, and I keep forgetting to take in a replacement. I get annoyed all over again every Tuesday, and still forget. I'm hoping that writing this will remind me for next week.

But really, where on earth do they find this stuff? I'm starting to wonder whether it really is soap, and not some kind of inert substance that just happens to look like soap. It has become slightly smaller since April, but when we use real soap it lasts a month at most. This stuff just goes on and on, not doing anything useful.

At the two other places I work, one place also dilutes the soap beyond usefulness, and the other has stopped pretending altogether, and the soap containers are always empty except for a brief few days at the beginning of the year.

But I don't understand it. Soap is ridiculously cheap. What is going on? What do they have against bubbles?