My friend Neil was one of the first people I met when I moved to Las Vegas 10 years ago. Both of us had forced ourselves to go to a stupid networking event on the Strip; I was hoping to make some contacts that would eventually lead to a job (oh, what a terrible time I had finding a job here) and Neil had been dragged there by a friend. In my book I describe how our eyes met as we "winced in unison as a man rifled through a bowl of mixed nuts right after he coughed in his hand, and then the two of us talked for twenty minutes about how we'd rather starve than eat bar nuts left open to mass contamination." Neil and I are both germaphobes and I'm the first to admit we're as nutty as the day is long.
Neil moved up to Portland, Oregon, several years ago but was in town last week so we got together for lunch at Sean Patrick's Irish Pub on West Flamingo, which immediately earned our seal of approval. "Look at this, Linda," Neil said, pleased to see the utensils wrapped in a napkin and then placed on a second napkin. "We can unwrap our knives and forks and then safely put them on the other napkin."
I nodded. "How about those people who put their silverware right on the table?"
"The table that's just been gone over with the 'all-purpose rag...'" he added. We both shuddered.
Although the restaurant had done a great job creating our sterile eating field, Neil asked the waitress for a few more napkins, which he used to pick up the ketchup for his potatoes, totally a la What About Bob?
Neil and I hadn't seen each other in ages and had a ton of catching up to do. And by "catching up," I mean we had a full agenda, sharing our pet peeves (for the umpteenth time in our 10-year friendship) and every single unsanitary practice we'd witnessed since we last got together.
The other day I went through the drive-through at Jack-in-the-Box and the guy was really nice, but when he gave me my food, the nail on his pinky finger was really long. Like he was growing it out. It was disgusting. The only way I could eat my food was to think that he never touched it. Only the people in the back. People who had just washed their hands...
"Pot luck." Are there any words more horrifying? I can't eat from just anybody's kitchen. What if they have cats that walk around their kitchen counters? What if they have a dog and pet it and then touch the food they're making? No, if I have to go to a pot luck, I eat only what I brought. Or something that I'm sure is from a store...
How about people who blow their nose in their napkin and then put it right on the table? Or even on their plate, so now the waitress has to deal with that...
How about people who make a sandwich and place the bread right on the counter? Not on a plate, not on a cutting board, not on a napkin or paper towel...
"I once saw someone put a cookie down right on the table," Neil said, "and then eat it."
I one upped him. "That's nothing, I once dated a guy who put a cookie on an outside patio table and then eat it. An outside patio table that birds could walk on. I saw with my own eyes. Needless to say, we didn't last."
Then I told Neil how I periodically catch Mike drying a pan with a hand towel. "A hand towel! It's like he doesn't even know there's a difference between a hand towel and a dish towel. You can't dry dishes with a hand towel that everyone's been wiping their hands on."
Neil shook his head. "That's grounds for divorce."
Oh, we went on and on. And then yesterday I got an email from Neil telling me he was at a celebration where the birthday girl kept licking her fingers as she cut the cake, contaminating the adjoining pieces. "Linda, we were sitting right in front of the serving table and this was
happening blatantly right up in my face to the point that I had to get
up, go away and watch from afar," he wrote.
Yep, birthday parties can be a nightmare, especially the whole blowing out the candles bit. I was brought up right. On her birthday, my grandmother would extinguish
the candles by waving a paper plate over the cake, a practice adopted
by my entire family. Yes, you can come to a birthday of anyone in my family and not have to worry about drops of saliva in the
frosting. I try to get other people to do the same when it's their
birthday; some will humor me. Others won't. And that is when I pass on
I should say that my grandmother used to keep her vacuum cleaner in a plastic bag so it wouldn't get dirty. She was my hero.
What do you think? Are Neil and I loons or what? Are you a germ freak, too?