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)