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Lessons Learned from CBS Freakonomics Luncheon

This week I attended the CBS Newsmakers Freakonomics Forecast Luncheon and book signing featuring economist Steven D. Levitt and journalist Stephen J. Dubner. I was excited about this event having read excerpts from their book Freakonomics and hearing the buzz surrounding their explosive follow-up book Superfreakonomics. I’ll admit I have not completely read either book but after recently seeing previews for the Freakonomics movie, I knew this would be a great opportunity to see both men live and in person!

The books and movie both examine human behavior with provocative and sometimes hilarious case studies about incentives and how people get what they want or need especially when other people want or need the same thing. It all boils down to what type of incentives motivate people to do “the right thing” such as making good grades, hand washing, being honest, etc.

The presentation was thought provoking and surprisingly funny as both men have entertaining personalities. Stephen Dubner (the journalist) began by telling us how he and Steven Levitt (the economist) originally got together. He then challenged the audience by asking us “Who NEVER washes their hands after using the bathroom?” Of course no one raised their hand.

He went on to share an unofficial experiment he conducts in airport bathrooms. It was quite enlightening but not surprising.

Turns out when Dubner lingers at the sink in the men’s bathroom and monitors how many men leave the restroom without washing their hands. Based on his unofficial test, 70% of men do not wash their hands before exiting an airport restroom. Personally, I think that is completely disgusting but not surprising. I think deep down men assume that because that they are not touching any part of the public facility and only themselves, this does not qualify them as “dirty.” But that’s my personal opinion.

The restroom experiment led to Dubner to sharing this horrendous fact. Statics show that 100,000 people in America go to the hospital and die from something other than what they came to the hospital to be treated for. Guess what they die from? Bacterial infections from doctors not washing their hands. Gross.

The discussion on hand washing freaked me out into preparing an immediate conversation with my husband the minute he returned from his business trip. Let me be very clear. I don’t worry about husband’s personal hygiene; it is all the other people in the world who were in Dubner’s experiment. The monitoring of men in airport restrooms made my head spin with visions of these men touching the bathroom door, airplane seat, tray and magazines not to mention the taxi and hotel room where their unwashed hands are touching the remote control and phone.

I had all the points organized in my head ready to unleash that evening upon his return from Philadelphia when I received a phone call that morning from husband saying “We have a serious problem”. Turns out he was extremely ill with either food poisoning or the stomach flu.

Husband was forced to fly home with the sweats which I’m sure thrilled his neighboring passengers. Nothing is worse than being sick on a flight or sitting next to someone is sick. Once husband arrived home he proceeded to quarantine himself for two days in our bedroom. I was hopeful that by staying far away from me and the girls this would keep us “safe”, turns out not so much.

By 2 am Saturday morning, Sassy kid #1 treated us to an all night puke fest. After changing her bed, our bed twice, giving her two baths and changing her pajamas three times, the madness finally stopped around 4 am.

Dear Self: When the kid wakes you up and says “Mommy I SPIT in my bed” this actually means she was SICK in her bed.

By Saturday night husband was feeling much better. I took this as a sign to review the past few days of hell and Dubner’s hand washing experiment. I reiterated how important it was for HIM to be diligent in washing HIS hands, suggested we put Purell in his bag so it was handy at all times and explained that my worry stems from all those disgusting men who do not wash their hands in the airport restroom.

Hopefully three days of being ill freaked him out enough and is an incentive to amp up the hand washing. So glad I was able to turn this event into a learning opportunity for our family but not excited about the late night puke fest. That, I could have done without.

About The Author:

Alison Ray
Alison Ray
Alison Ray is President of So Chic Media, Editor of Sassy Moms in the City and Co-Founder of women.wine.wear. Find me on Twitter @SassyMomChicago and Facebook.

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