Once I get about this far into Winter...you know, when it's so cold outside that even the inside of the freezer feels like a trip to the Bahamas (OK, so I'm exaggerating)...I start to become obsessively-compulsively aware of what a giant germ factory we live in.
Germs are flying, floating, and crawling everywhere this time of year. If we're not trying to prevent them, we're either trying to battle them with every manner of pharmacological warfare at our disposal, or we're on the ever so prolonged road to recovery.
I admit it: I have issues with germs. But my personal pet peeves about germs and bacteria have less to do with the little bugs themselves, and more to do with people's ignorance about how to prevent the spread of their nasty germs to the rest of us innocent bystanders. It never ceases to amaze me how people wantonly infect perfectly healthy friends and strangers alike, simply because they are too stupid or too apathetic to prevent it.
Here's a perfect example. The Hubs and I went to our favorite Chinese Buffet this evening for dinner. I'll admit, I tend to avoid buffets this time of year for the very reasons noted above. I mean, if you really stop and think about the number of germs that are lingering on the buffet utensils alone, it would be enough to make you stay home. (Or, at least, it should be.)
Just picture if you will the person who was down with a nasty, gut-wrenching two-day stomach virus--who couldn't even keep down a glass of water up until 8 hours ago--cruising through the buffet tables in front of you, touching every single utensil as he fills his plate. Do you really want to load up your plate using those same utensils? Is the all-you-can-eat fried rice really that important to you?! And will you still think so when it's coming back up tomorrow? I think not. (BTW, this is precisely why I travel with anti-bacterial sanitizer, and I use it liberally when I eat at buffet places; it may not be fool-proof, but it's better than nothing.)
And then there's the lady I observed at the buffet this evening. She had a full plate in her left hand, and was getting another plate to fill. She looked at the 6 stacks of plates. She took her right hand and rubbed it around the surface of the plate on the first stack. But she doesn't take that. No, she repeats this plate-rubbing on the top plate of the next stack. She did this three times, until she finally found a plate that was acceptable. WTH?! Not only do I wonder if she was sick yesterday (I guess the people who ended up taking the plates she touched will find out soon enough), but I am willing to bet that this twit is also a habitual double-dipper at parties. Chips and Dip, anyone? Sheesh.
The simple truth is that probably half of the people who get sick each year, if not more, could avoid the illness all together with just an ounce (hell, even an iota!) of prevention on the part of the folks who go around carelessly infecting the rest of us. So here are a few tips on how to keep your germs to yourself. And if you already know these things, perhaps you should share this blog post with those who live in the land of infectious ignorance and bacterial bliss.
- Wash your hands. Seriously. Germs can't swim, so drown the little suckers. It's the one form of murder that is totally acceptable, and even encouraged. Use soap, warm water, and do it for 20, count 'em, 20 seconds! You should be washing for the amount of time it would take you to sing the entire "Happy Birthday" song. Go ahead and sing. Get your groove on. No one's listening.
- Cough and sneeze into your elbow. Yes, I said your ELBOW. If you use your hand, you're gonna touch something, and probably before you wash your hands. And I don't want it to be my hand that you're touching, or my coffee mug, or my door handle! But if you do use your hand, see #1.
- If you are sick, STAY HOME. Clearly you did not wash your hands enough and you got somebody else's bug, so stay home and keep your germs to yourself. And I prescribe some chicken soup, and one complete viewing of Ferris Bueller's Day Off. That ought to make you feel better in no time.
- If your kids are sick, then keep them home too. Do you want the next epidemic in your child's school on your shoulders?! Of course not. And while they're home, this would be a good time to practice hand-washing and the proper form of coughing and sneezing.
- Don't touch your face. This is an important one, and all too often overlooked. Germs get into your system in one of three ways: your eyes, or your nose, or your mouth. If you touch a germ-ridden surface, and then, say, rub your eyes, or scratch your nose, or (ew) lick your finger...what's going to happen? Anyone, anyone, Bueller? Yeah, I think you get the idea.
While I do accept the fact that I cannot prevent all illnesses, it sure as hell won't be for lack of trying. That doesn't make me a germ-o-phobe, as much as some people might like to think. Frankly, if that were true, I wouldn't even leave my house. I'm simply cautious, for one very simple reason: I DON'T LIKE BEING SICK! Do you? I didn't think so. So I arm myself with my arsenal of preventive wisdom, and a little hand sanitizer, and I greet the world each day saying...
Welcome to the Germ Factory.