Cornucopias of Germs

We had another damn pot luck celebration thingy at work last week. Man, I hate those things. I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a fan of the pot-luck. Piles and piles of strange food, prepared by people you barely know, in god-knows what sort of kitchen conditions.

Restaurants I can deal with because there is the presumption of some sort of health code in place. But who knows what goes on in regular people’s kitchens? Not that my kitchen is sterile – far from it; but it contains my mess and my germs and my bacteria.

When I was a kid we had pot-lucks at church at least once a month, sometimes more. They could always come up with some excuse to drag us back to church when it wasn’t even Sunday. Nothing attracts people like mountains of food.

And that’s another thing about pot-lucks that grosses me out – the huge amounts of food. People heap their plates full two and three times and there’s still always enough left over to feed another round of pot-luckers.

Anyhow, one Saturday morning before a pot-luck, when I was still young enough to have only one sibling, my mum and I went over to some old church lady’s house because she and my mum were going to do some baking together. It was a hot day and the woman was in a sleeveless shift with and apron over it. She was beating some cake batter with a wooden spoon in an enormous ceramic bowl. For maximum grip and beating power, she had the bowl tucked firmly under one arm.

Very sensible. Except that I could see the thick bush of her armpit hair just brushing the rim of the mixing bowl and the wattles of her arms rhythmically slapping the side of the bowl. I was mesmerized watching her beating and flapping and chatting with my mum and laughing. I watched that incredible bush of armpit hair begin to glisten with sweat as the woman worked hard mixing her old country cake batter until, inevitably, a tiny droplet of sweat broke free from her underarm thicket and carefully wended its way down the inside of the bowl and into the cake batter.

I was so shocked I jumped up and ran out of the house and stayed out until my dad came to pick us all up to go to the pot-luck.

I only ever ate my mum’s food at these pot-luck things anyway and usually tried to persuade my parents to do the same, but they never listened. This time I begged them not to eat any of the sweat cake, except for some reason, I didn’t tell them why. Maybe it was too hard to explain for a little kid or maybe I wasn’t able to get enough of their ear-time at such a social event to explain properly. Who knows?

Luckily they were too full when it was time for dessert to have any of the cake; but I walked around and watched other people eat it. I was happy when I saw people that had been mean to me eating it. When I saw nice people eating, I knew I could never think of those people the same way again.

So, though I never liked to eat strangers’ food, this episode may have been the beginning of a conscious revulsion for pot-lucks. And buffets – the food might have been prepared under clean conditions, but then it sits out there for every Dick, Tom and Hairy to poke around in and breathe on.

I know some people think this is a bit OCD/germaphobic, but it’s really not. Germaphobes have irrational fears – I just take sensible precautions. And if I was hungry and a buffet or a pot-luck were the only food available, I could find a few things to choke down. (Definitely nothing in a cream sauce though).

And the food thing is really the only thing I have issues with. With all the media-hype about transmittal of illnesses, like everyone else, I’ve become hyperaware of what a hotbed of viruses and diseases human beings carry around with them, so I do wash my hands more frequently than I used to. I also don’t like using other people’s phones or keyboards or having them use mine. And I have to brush my teeth after I eat anything, but other than that I’m cool.

I love shopping in thrift stores, for instance, and I know a lot of people who freak out at the thought of wearing, trying on or even rooting through clothes other people have worn.

XUP Jr. has always had a thing about bathing in other people’s tubs. Even when she was little she refused to have a bath anywhere other than home – she wouldn’t even bathe at grandma’s house and her tub is always sparkling clean.

I know other people, like my sister-in-law who won’t even use a toilet other than her own. She’ll be at work all day and hold it all in until she gets home. When she’s away somewhere for more than a day she can force herself to pee in another toilet, but nothing else, she says. She’s always in serious gastro-intestinal distress after a vacation. And yet her bathroom at home is usually far, far (far) from clean.

It’s funny the quirks people have related to germs and cleanliness, isn’t it? I think everyone must have at least one. What’s yours? Or, what are the strangest germ-related phobias you’ve encountered? (Fear of wheat germ doesn’t count)

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42 responses to “Cornucopias of Germs

  1. I’m pretty non plussed about eating other people’s food at potlucks. Most of the time, the cooking will kill any of their germs that they put it in the food while making it.

  2. Since traveling to India, and getting really sick there, I am no longer concerned about germs back home as a rule. They don’t use hot water to wash dishes there. I’ve run across a lot of strange toilets here in France and can even use a turkish toilet if I have to. Using metros and buses all of the time I often think of the germs everywhere but, what are you going to do? I just suck it up and do it. I’ll eat anything at a buffet too. I wouldn’t have eaten that cake though-ick.

  3. For cleanliness, I have a hair thing- I go on distress if I think my hair is dirty, strongly dislike dirty hair in other people, and I can reasonably bear body smells, except this nasty dirty hair smell… So pillows-pillow cases are a big thing for me too, you know when you stay at someone’s place and the pillow already smells like somebody else? Eeeewwww then again I love the pillow smells of lovers or children I love you know 🙂

  4. At some point when I’m sitting on an airplane I start thinking about all the people who have sat there and how dirty their hair or thighs might have been and start to fell icky and gross. When it’s too hot to wear jeans on a flight, I try to wear my longest shorts but there’s nothing to to about my head. Except be grossed out. Also I have a terrible combination of thinking escalator handrails are filthy along with a strong fear of falling. Maybe that’s really why I like to stand still on the escalator.

  5. My wife is very cautious about touching public surfaces like door handles or elevator buttons. It drives her crazy that I don’t share that same aversion.

    Sadly, I will even eat food off the floor if the floor looked clean and the food wasn’t there too long. Perhaps something happened during childhood that I could blame this on.

  6. To this day, my mother is very vocal about not sharing anyone else’s food. I always thought she was a little overboard about it. Not even with family members? C’mon. But you know what, now that I’m older, you won’t catch me sharing anyone’s food, unless maybe you each used a clean fork and only took one bite each with that fork. Double-dippers, get away from me now!

    p.s.,
    I think you just ruined the pot luck market. Anyone who reads your post will find them abhorrent from now on 🙂

  7. I actually feel just like you do about the whole pot luck thing. I really hate eating food made by random people that I don’t know and don’t know what kind of kitchen they have. There are too many people that have different hygiene standards than I do, to be polite. I don’t want to be one of the people that end up eating sweaty underarm cake.

    I also have a similar creep out factor with drinking from water fountains. I would do just about anything to not drink out of a public water fountain.

  8. I love pot lucks, and don’t have an issue with germs in general. Drives my partner crazy, because he definitely has some germ-related phobias. He’s positive I’m going to fall deathly ill because I touched that escalator railing, but so far, I’ve managed to keep myself alive.

    I had a roommate many years ago who definitely had a problem with germs. We didn’t live well together, as we had very different standards of cleanliness. She got very upset at me once because I touched her towel.

    She kept an ironing board up permanently in her room, and would iron every single article of clothing before putting it on her body – including her socks. I guess she figured the heat from the iron would destroy any germs on the clothing. And once it had been ironed, it had to go straight on to her body. It couldn’t touch anywhere else first. She insisted that this was perfectly normal behaviour.

  9. I’m mildly germaphobic. And let me tell you, there’s nothing like working in the Nukular Industry to help feed that phobia.

    You get to go into zones of different radioactive “Contamination” zones. Where, depending on the severity, there are different protocols about what you should wear to protect yourself.

    It could be nothing. Or just wear a lab coat. Or it could be strip down, and put on special underwear and coveralls, gloves and hat, and special bootie coverings for your feet.

    And they tell you not to touch anything and not to lean against anything.

    Great.

    And when you leave these zones, you have to go through sensors, detectors, etc. to make sure you’re clean.

    Not only that, but anything you also took in needs to be checked. If you put some blueprints on a table, or used a pen or some notepad…you have to get that scanned and checked too…by a radiation surveyor.

    But least I wasn’t in the REALLY “dirty” zones, where people have to wear space-suits, and get hooked up to breathing air.

    But I got to supervise them, and make sure they followed all the safety rules.

    And then when you leave the site in general, to go for lunch, you have to go through these stand-in telephone booths, where a robot female voice tells you to put your hands up and turn around…and checks if you’re “clean”.

    Then you go through ANOTHER level of detectors after that, before you’re in the outside world.

    (*shudder*)

    I’m glad I’m mostly at a desk now.

    But I can just imagine how much a fellow germaphobe like you would love a job like that.

  10. I think I’m pretty relaxed about this. even when I was a macrobiotic vegan I’d eat whatever a host made me – including meat. Sad hungry waif that I was at the time I never wanted to offend anyone who was kind enough to share a meal with me.

    My weirdness doesn’t seem weird to me.

    I won’t share fruit with people – even my kids – the idea of eating a banana that someone else has bitten makes me gag and that goes back to childhood and my dad insisting I share a banana with some kid I didn’t even know.

    I don’t like taking baths in other people’s tubs. But I will, if I wash them first.

    I won’t drink from a drink if I’ve turned my back on it. Okay, that one is a little strange. I have a fear that someone will put something in it, like drugs, or spit, or a killer bee. i hate events where everyone has identical plastic cups for this reason.

    I won’t use a public toilet if I have to ask for and hold some gross key on a stick, but any other public toilet is fine.

    In general I’m more afraid of antibacterial products and what is in them (triclosan is an endocrine disruptor) than I am of germs.

  11. Dr. Monkey – What if it’s not cooked? Like pasta salads and all those other crazy cold dishes that are usually at pot-lucks because there aren’t enough microwaves for everyone to heat stuff? Or hair? What about finding your co-worker’s hair in your food?

    Linda – I did notice in Paris that hygiene wasn’t at the top of their list of priorities. One place we ate, I went to the washroom after and there was the server’s pick-up station not 2 feet from the toilet stall. There was the toilet flushing and there were 2 heaping plates of someone’s lunch. I also noticed they deliver baguettes early in the morning by throwing bags full of them out on the sidewalk.

    Cristina – Ya, that would be pretty gross to put your face on a pillowcase that smells like someone else. The whole hotel stay idea is kind of yucky if you really think about it since all sorts of people have done all sorts of things on that mattress you’re sleeping on; on that pillow; under those blankets…

    Geewits – Some of the planes now have leather headrests which are so much nicer because there’s a much better chance of cleaning those up than upholstered. It’s not just planes either – it’s buses, trains, waiting rooms, restaurants – the places we park our naked legs and head is endless. I agree about the escalator handrails, too. Also door handles anywhere.

    LGS – Well, I guess if it’s not making you sick on a regular basis then more power to you. It’s not fun to feel all grossed out everywhere you go.

    Skyetrueheart – You think so? They should. I can’t even believe we still have pot-lucks and buffets in this age of hyper-vigilance where the spread of bacteria and viruses are concerned. The other day I bought some yoghurt and it was just in a tub with a lid – no seal. It freaked me out and I brought it back. Anyone could have opened that and spit in it or something. I can’t even believe they can still sell food that isn’t sealed in some way.

    Kimberly – Do public water fountains still exist? Blech. And ya, I’ve been in a lot of people’s kitchens and I’d say 80% are places I would not want to eat out of, so the odds are pretty good that most of the people bringing stuff to pot-lucks also have kitchens I wouldn’t want to eat anything out of.

    Leanne – I wouldn’t like you to touch my towel either, but the ironing thing is a little odd. Sure, I iron my clothes, but then I hang them up. In the closet!! She must have been fun to live with.

    Friar – They’re just checking for radiation though, right? Not viruses. I’m actually doing a course right now on environmental health & safety and I’m starting to get a little worried about even going to work with all the thousands of chemicals and toxins and stuff leaching out of our carpets and cubicle dividers and walls and electronics and light fixtures and the lead in our water pipes – even the millions of mould spores cultivating in my lovely plants. I’m freaking out. Why would they allow someone like me to take this course?

    Mudmama – The fruit thing is interesting. I’ll share fruit or other food with my daughter, but that’s about it. They toilet key thing is funny because the key things really are disgusting. Some places have an employee unlock the door for you now so that fewer people touch it. I agree about the antibacterial soap. I won’t have anything in the house that says it’s antibacterial – except polysporin or some other first aid thing like that.

  12. Hmmmmm, interesting topic. I guess I must fall into the germ fearing side of this discussion. I am careful to wash my hands before I floss my teeth. I don’t like to leave a spoon on the counter if I plan to eat with it. I don’t make a sandwich on the bare counter, I make it on a clean plate.

    However I have eaten at a pot luck dinner without thinking about the potential germs. Perhaps I’ll be thinking about germs the next time I am at a pot luck event. Could it be pot luck will never be the same for me ever again?

    I do think our body is able to protect itself from germs, but I also feel a desire to reduce the number of germs I allow to invade my personal space. 🙂

    The sweat in the mixing bowl would probably have produced the same effect in me.

  13. I’m like you regarding potlucks, my fear started when I was young as well. When I was in grade three there was a girl who’s Mom used to make the most amazing cakes and bring them in for special occassions for the class (Halloween, Valentines Day, her bday). Then I saw how this friend and her family lived (in the dirtiest house ever) and I was forever changed. Never ate the cake again!

    Hotel rooms give me the heebie geebies, not just the blankets but the shower curtain, carpets and tiles, cups, coffee makers, counter tops blech! I’ve been known to bring some cleaners and do my own cleaning when I arrive.

    Shopping carts. Before grocery stores set up ‘cleaning stations’ near shopping carts I used to carry around wipes so that I could wipe mine down.

    If we have company (even family) I use bleach or a disinfectant cleaner in my bathroom especially on the toilet after they leave.

    I don’t like walking barefoot in grass. Dogs use grass as their toilet. Blech.

    These are just a few examples, I know that some of my fears are strange and I would say they are less fears and more along the lines of things that make me uncomfortable! Now on the flip side, I think nothing of kissing our dog or snuggling up with him on our bed! Some people (many people) think that’s disgusting!

  14. I don’t like processed meats because they seem dirty to me.
    And I have a friend who worked in a famous pie factory.
    After he told me the stuff that staff did to the pies on the assembly line I can’t eat them either.

    I have to look at my food before I eat it. So if it’s covered in sauce or gravy that I didn’t put on it I won’t eat it..

  15. I always like potlucks, you get lots of good recipes from them. That said, the only ones I go to are usually with friends, and I’d go to any of their houses for dinner without a second thought.

    Maybe I’d better rethink that invite to my place this summer I threw out so blithely to you and the girls yesterday at brunch.

  16. I am also not a fan of work potlucks. Potlucks with close friends are not a problem, but I make sure I’m working out of the office when office potlucks happen. Eeg.

    I work periodically with a Public Health Inspector and noticed very quickly that she always has her own pen with her and never uses anyone else’s pen or loans hers out. Because we do inspections there are always things to note and sign, so I have become a bit fanatic about having my own pen with me so I don’t have to borrow someone else’s germy pen.

  17. Ocdriver – Well of course you’d wash your hands before flossing – that’s just normal. So is the spoon and sandwich thing, I think. Do you wash your hands before using the bathroom as well as after? I never understood why people make a big deal about washing your hands after, but think nothing of touching their nether regions with unwashed hands.

    Betsy Mae – Thank you for making my point. Like I said before, most people don’t keep their kitchens all that clean. And maybe people would think the same of my kitchen. I know my mum is disgusted that we have a cat roaming freely through the house. And he does jump on the counter or table occasionally, though he’s not supposed to. I always clean them well before using them, but still. And I would have second thoughts about eating somewhere where they have cats on their kitchen counters. It’s all irrational. I do agree about hotels. Some of them don’t even look clean. If there’s fluff or other stuff under the bed or hair anywhere in the bathroom, I’ll ask for another room or to have mine cleaned again. And I won’t stay there again.

    Glen – Processed meats are dirty. I think they’re made from all the stuff they sweep off the floor of the slaughter house. I’m sure most of our food goes through some unhygienic stuff on the way to our table. And, if you’ve ever worked in a restaurant kitchen you probably will never want to eat in a restaurant again. You’re only safe if you grow and cook your own food. And live way out in the woods somewhere. Alone. Wearing a hooded sweatshirt and dark glasses.

    Alison – It’s okay. We’ll each bring our own lunch.

    Jennifer – Ya, if you start thinking about these things too carefully it all gets pretty gross. I can’t remember where I was reading a pharmacist was asking people to stop giving her their filthy cell phones so she could talk to the family doctor or a family member or something. I guess that happens a lot to pharmacists. I hate it when people use my phone at work, too. Then I have to wipe it all down with disinfectant. Same with the pen. Or when a techie comes to fix something on my computer and clicks away at my keyboard in between picking his geekie nose or chewing on his fingernails. It’s making me cringe just to type this.

  18. gosh wouldn’t it be super if our bodies had developed in an environment full of germs and we had grown a way to combat them instead of walking around terrified by them.
    Maybe with evolution something like that will come about cause you really can’t help but get a full dose of germs with every breath you take.

  19. oh i wish i wasn’t having my mid-morning snack while i read this entry. ugh.

    i never really thought much of pot locks, though i have only had them with friends. i will think twice about them from ever now. buffets have always been suspect to me.

    i am not a germ freak. quite the opposite in fact. i leave meat on the counter to defrost, don’t always remember to wash my fruits and veggies, probably don’t wash my hands as often as i should. i figure i’ve lived this long with these habits and am healthy. yep, i’ve had norwalk and my share of colds, but they happen to even the biggest germophobes. plus having lived and travelled in india and didn’t get sick, but ended up in hospital in greece because of an intestinal parasite, i figure i can survive whatever germs can throw at me.

  20. What about motel rooms?

    Have you ever seen on TV, where they visit a reputable motel chain, and film a clean, immaculate room in UV light?

    Countless fluorescent white spots show up EVERYWHERE. The walls, bedspread, curtains, ceiling, etc…

    And believe me…you DON’T don’t wanna know that those spots are…

    When travelling, my ex-girlfriend was paranoid, an refused to touch anything and refused to walk around barefoot anywhere in the room…

    My way of coping is to feign ignorance and try not to think about it. (If I don’t specifically know what’s there, it can’t hurt me).

  21. I really like potlucks, besides, the heat of the cooking will take care of any sweat bacteria in the cake – though your telling of the story, that was absolutely cringe inducing…

    I haven’t much problem with germs. I figure if it doesn’t kill me it’ll strengthen my immune system. I’ve wanted to die a few times in Asia and South America, but nothing has managed to kill me yet.

  22. I like the bus, but its obviously pretty much a minefield of germs. Everytime you hold on to those bars, who knows what kind of viruses you are clutching! Thank God for travel sized Purel!

  23. Dave1949 – Well. Of course we all realize that on an intellectual level, but that doesn’t stop us from feeling squeamish about certain things.

    Smothermother – I know all the fussing and avoiding things and washing stuff probably doesn’t make us all that much healthier, but it makes me feel better. I couldn’t bring myself to eat something without washing my hands first. I wouldn’t enjoy it and I’d probably choke on it – which would be detrimental to my health!!

    Friar – Ya. I know what those white spots are. I’ve seen the programs you speak of. And it’s not even just white spots, but blood and vomit and urine and feces they find all over the hotel rooms. WTF?? What exactly are people doing in there anyway. I won’t walk barefoot in a hotel room either and I move the bedspread far away from my bed right off the bat. And I usually bring my own pillow cases for added protection from the pillows.

    Jazz – That’s a valid theory about strengthening your immune system. And I reckon we’re pretty well protected from the usual run of bacteria we encounter regularly. I think it’s more a matter of the thought of where that pasta salad has been or all the stuff that accidentally dropped into the cake that’s in the middle of the pot luck table.

    Pauline – The bus and pretty much every other public place. That’s why winter is better – most of us are wearing gloves!

  24. I had no idea so many people hated potlucks … and touching things. I loved potlucks – having so many people making food for me was heavenly. I admit, I never thought about the possibility of spit or sweat in my food.
    And I am with Jazz; our bodies need a few germs and bacteria to build up the natural antibodies and boost our immune system.
    Although, I can live with my own hairs and dirt over someone else’s, but I don’t obsess over it. Life is dirty, choose the dirt you can roll in.

  25. it’s not really a germ thing but i can’t stand other people’s cooking smells in buildings, good or bad. it goes back to living in a multi-unit apartment building and being overpowered by cooking smells. i can’t eat at my mother in law’s place (she lives in a building) for this reason. i even hate cooking smells in my house after the meal has been consumed.
    i touch elevator/door opening buttons with my elbows for fear of germs. i wrap my hand around a piece of garment ot open doors. it still get sick a lot.

  26. From the First Law of Thermodynamics, matter can neither be created nor destroyed.

    So that glass of crystal pure water you’re drinking, that organic salad you made *yourself* for lunch, well, it’s got little tiny bits of dinosaur poop and monkey boogers in it.

    🙂

  27. Violetsky – You and Jazz are going to make ideal guests then! I won’t have to bleach my kitchen and shave my cat before feeding you, like I would if my mum came to visit — not that she would…

    Meanie – Some of those elevator buttons and handrail things must be pretty yucky.I don’t like old cooking smells either. I keep my bedroom door closed and sealed if I’m cooking something smelly because I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I had to smell dinner from hours ago.

    Julia – That was sincerely appropos of nothing. People say that a lot and then go on to say something that is, in fact, related in some way. But this? Nope. Totally not appropos. Cool though.

    Brett – It probably has a lot worse things in it than that. But at least I made it myself.

  28. @Brett

    Just think…in that glass of water, some of those water molecules might have touched the lips of Jesus Christ himself.

    But then again, the water could just as easily contacted a Bubonic Plague victim from the 13th Century.

  29. I used to like potlucks…tasting dishes from all different ethnic backgrounds was a treat…until I read your post. I never stopped to think the state of my co-workers kitchens and the armpit sweat/cake story put me over the edge. YUCK! My biggest phobia is public washrooms and toilets. I only use them if it is an emergency and toilet training my kids and their use of public washrooms continues to be a nightmare for me. All the germs…they are too little to hover… it’s a wonder we ever go out.

  30. @Brett

    Why don’t we do a road trip and bring Walter over to XUP’s hosue?

    Nothing like a big slobbering 100-lb. Lab to lick everybody, and everything. (After drinking out of the toilet, of course).

  31. I came back to read the comments and get a few chuckles. Not one person who has a quirk seems weird to me lol!

    Another thing that I can’t stand!

    My girls are nearly 5 and 7 years old, so everytime we go out to a restaurant they inevitably need to use the washroom. There is nothing worse than having your food arrive only to have your kid say ‘I have to pee/poop’. UGH! It happens every single time no matter how many times we make them go before the food arrives (it’s those damn drinks that come before a meal!). So off we go to the washroom where I get to see up close the cleanliness (and usually lack there of) of the bathroom…only to return to my meal. Yuck!

  32. While in Vegas my ex partner and I stayed at the Harrahs and after the second night we both started to itch really bad and by the third night had welts all over our legs, we called the hotel and they said there was nothing wrong with the room. We went to see a doctor and we both were flea biten, among other things. We went back to the hotel and told them and they did not seemed concerned in the least. We took our little flea bitten asses over to the Flamingo and spent the rest of our time there. Harrahs Las Vegas BITES…Literally.

  33. If you worry too much about germs you turn into Howard Hughes.
    I theorize that with excessive use of antibiotics come the excessive use of things like that Purell crap. Watching people rub that into their hands after everything that they touch just weirds me. If you are that paranoid the best germicide is soap and water. And why you are leaving the mens room use a towel to open the door.Otherwise try to keep your fingers out of the vicinity of your mouth and any orifice until you’ve washed them.
    Remember that our forefathers rarely bathed and survived pretty well. The worse thing that you can do is to try to become “The boy in the Plastic Bubble”. Being John Travolta would pretty much suck as well.

  34. Friar – I thought my water tasted a little Jesussy just now. And the slobbering dog, I don’t care about. If he slobbers on me or my clothes, that can all be washed. If he slobbers on my food – it’s his. The neighbourhood’s dogs slobber on me all the time. I try to avoid it if I’m on my way somewhere important and dressed up, but otherwise they can have at it.

    Betsy Mae – Ya, nothing more appetizing than wiping your kid’s bum just before you eat your now cold meal.

    Cedar – Man, you sure have been around! I vow never to stay at Harrahs. Actually I think I can almost vow to never even go to Vegas…maybe if it’s free and someone else is paying all the expenses and it’s only for a couple of days….and Antonio Banderas is there waiting for me to console him after his quickie Nevada divorce.

    Lebowski – Ya, I’m not much into the Purell or having my fingers in my mouth. And the olden days people who never bathed actually all died of plagues and the pox and stuff because they also used to dump their chamber pots into the streets. There is something to be said for basic hygiene. E-coli and other contaminants are still pretty rampant because people don’t wash their hands before handling our food. But you’re right – the antibacterials only serve to mutate the bacteria; just like the over-use of penicillin served to mutate a lot of bacteria. (Even watching John Travolta sucks most of the time)

  35. The keyboards at the college computer labs squick me out entirely. There’s several classes in each lab every day, and the computer equipment at Alonquin must be ten years old to begin with… CRT monitors and grimy, icky keyboards. **shudder**

    I’ve developed a way to deal with them, much to the amusement of my peers. Between classes, I visit the Purel dispenser in the hallway and obtain a hand-full which I liberally anoint the keyboard and mouse with. I don’t chant “Begone, Satan!” as I do so, but I’m sure my facial expression says as much.

    Aside from that, I don’t much care. Like the privacy issue, I think people stress too much about the little things (my husband would howl with laughter to hear me say that.) I take special amusement from the ads for toilet bowl cleaners… eeeew, there’s germs in the toilet bowl! Huh, no kidding?! However, unless you plan to use that water to brew tea with, I don’t see why you’re bothering to *disinfect* the toilet…?

  36. Almost everyone I work with has taken university microbiology courses. Studying bacteria seems to either make people germ phobic (like most of you here seem to be) or allow people to really get over their germ phobia. Because they are absolutely EVERYwhere and the vast majority have no effect on our bodies at all. The disgust is all in your mind.

    I’m totally in agreement with Dave 1949. And really, I think I’d rather eat a cooked cake with a drop of cooked sweat than wear used unwashed clothing. Although to be fair, I think they spray the clothes first at some of the places, like VVs.

  37. I have to wipe the top of a can before opening it, even if I’m just pouring its contents elsewhere and not drinking out of it. I try to never touch door handles in public places – which can be tricky and sometimes people think it’s suspicious and weird when you slink into a building right on their heels so as to avoid opening the door yourself. Oh, and those rings around the inside of a toilet bowl or soap scum in the sink give me the creeps. I will NOT pee in such a toilet or wash my hands in such a sink.

  38. Susan – Keyboards certainly can get disgusting. I’m glad I’m the only one who ever uses mine and it’s new. They do make a keyboard disinfectant/cleaner, but I suppose Purell works too. And yes, I don’t get why you have to disinfect the hell out of your home at all. It’s really bad for the pets to have all those chemicals on your floors and in your toilet bowl.

    Gokalie – I don’t think anyone here is a germaphobe. No one is afraid of germs; no one’s life is affected by their aversion to germs. Everyone just has different things that they find gross. I think all these stories are perfectly valid human responses; they’re a matter of personal preferences. The disgust is absolutely all in our minds. We’ve developed these quirks for some reason over time. No big deal. You don’t need a degree in bacteriology to know that germs/bacteria are everywhere – some are good and we need them; some are bad and we don’t need them and have defenses to overcome them. Also, fyi I don’t wear the unwashed clothing from the thrift shops – I try them on in the store over other clothes and then take them home and wash them thoroughly before wearing them.

    Pinklea – Wiping cans before opening them is a very smart thing to do, I think – just like washing a melon or an orange before cutting it open. Those things have been through who knows how many hands. I can’t say I’m all that particular about where I pee, though. As long as I don’t have to touch any part of the toilet, it’s okay. And the nasty sink? You’re probably better off not washing your hands.

  39. Very interesting topic. I totally agree with your daughter about the tub thing. When I was younger and drank milk I wouldn’t drink milk at another person’s home. Now that one is a very strange idea but it just grossed me out. In high school I was friends with a girl who thought the same way I did about milk.

    I have a thing about cottages. It’s a place where old things go to die. I don’t understand the fascination with those places. People want to go and relax but they’re stuck cleaning when they get there and before they return home and then they’re stuck sleeping on some horrible bed that wasn’t good enough to be left at home and to sit on ugly, old furniture. Imagine the germs on those things! I could go on. I’m never at peace in those places. I’m a city girl.

  40. Stefania – I totally agree about cottages. Drag all your old shit way out to the middle of nowhere and do all the same stuff you do at home except not as conveniently.

    Charlene – You’re welcome. And it’s nice to hear from you again.