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Nosy Fingers

November 13 , 2021
By Kidist Yidnekachew ( Kidist Yidnekachew has degrees in psychology and journalism and communications. She can be reached at )

Human beings are a species of habit. We are enslaved to our routines. Of course, some habits are hard to create, such as exercising, while others are far harder to break, like drinking and smoking.

Most people I have observed have a petty habit that they do unconsciously. They pick their noses far too often. Almost every day, I see someone on the street carrying out this act and most do it mindlessly. They do not even bother to wash their hands or sanitise afterwards. They brush it off and wipe their hands, usually on their clothes as if it were dust. One would assume that after the COVID-19 pandemic, many would take precautions and give this habit up. Not a chance.

Nose picking is not something novel. Many of us do it in the comfort of our homes, hopefully in the bathroom when we are by ourselves. Afterwards, we sanitise our hands or use tissue paper instead of our fingers to get the nasal discharge from our noses. A study showed that nose-picking could potentially cause harm as those who do it are more likely to become carriers of nasty bacteria and can spread it. There was even a case of a woman who pierced a hole into her sinus and nasal septum as a result of constant nose-picking.

As I was waiting for a taxi the other day, there was a guy probably in his late 40s standing a few metres across from me. I was on my phone and when I looked up, I caught him picking his nose. He did not see me. He kept picking, going from one nostril to another; then he kept playing with it while I was waiting for him to sanitise or at least wipe his hand, but he chose to do nothing about it. A few minutes later, someone who knew him came and shook his hand - the same one he used to pick his nose.

The poor friend of his had no idea what the hands he shook had touched. But – who knows? – maybe he had been picking his nose as well.

One would assume that people at a higher economic class or level of education are immune to this habit, but they are not. I have observed on many occasions men driving SUVs picking their noses or PhDs in meetings unconsciously letting their fingers run to their nostrils. Mostly, these act is perpetrated by men as women tend to be self-conscious and worry more about their hygiene than the other sex.

There is one common behaviour that goes with nose-picking. It is spitting on the road. Many people leave their spit signature on the road. Sometimes in the middle of the road, we find a puddle of spit blocking our way or might even accidentally step on it. I understand there could be situations where one needs to spit on the streets, but can we at least be discrete enough to do it at the corner of the road, wipe it off or put something over it for cover.

Even pets learn to clean up after themselves. Why can human beings not make the same mental leap?

I find the act of nose picking repulsive not because I am a germophobe but rather because of the whole concept of not cleaning up after oneself. Especially when we are with other people, we have to be conscious of our acts and refrain from handling our bodily fluids in discourteous ways. It is unsightly. Besides that, we should be responsible enough to clean our mess, not transmit it to somebody else. Ironically, it is nose-pickers that have to tell their children constantly to be hygienic. Unfortunately, children learn more from our actions than our vocal advice.

If these adults were children, they would be scolded. As adults, what can we tell them they do not already know?

PUBLISHED ON Nov 13,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1124]

Kidist Yidnekachew has degrees in psychology and journalism and communications. She can be reached at

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