Monday, July 22, 2013

It's not easy being clean

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 the cake.

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? 


Unknown said...

How about if someone gives you a dirty look? Or better yet, someone starts dishing dirt on a mutual friend...I could go on and on but will spare you. Best Wishes, Spero.

Unknown said...

What happens if someone gives you a dirty look? Or better yet, a friend wants to dish some dirt about someone else? How about having a boyfriend who won't clean up his act or you go to a store that advertises "dirt cheap" prices...yes Linda, you're in a world of trouble. Hah. Spero.

raydenzel1 said...

hmm, loons in a cute way!

Unknown said...

I go into a meltdown when people put bread directly on the counter to make a sandwich. You and Neil are not loons, you are the norm. :)

Dawn said...

I am and now you have given me even more things to think about! When ever the grandkids come over and bring there ipads, I promptly wipe them down because, I can't stand the millions of finger prints all over. My granddaughter always thanks me too! Apparently it's not something anyone in her house knows how to do!

Mike Dennis said...

Funny post, Linda. Especially the part about the hand towel vs dish towel.

I've known a couple of serious germophobes in my life (for the record, I'm not one), and they can never seem to answer this question. I'm very interested to see how you do with it.

Given the fact that you take great care to avoid germs on hand towels, napkins, food counters, etc, and that most people (myself included) do not take anywhere near that degree of care, why are the rest of us not paying any real consequences?

In other words, we're all presumably risking our health by these less-than-sanitary practices, and yet we live to tell about it. Why is that?


Tara said...

I was wondering the same thing as Mike, but then I remembered that I have a 'delicate' constitution and am plagued my all sorts of ailments. Perhaps if I became a germ warrior my health would improve....

The things that I adhere to are: bathroom sponges are for bathroom ONLY, dish towels are for dishes ONLY,and...I think that's it. I even share lip balm (yuck).

I've never, ever heard of waving a paperplate over a birthday cake. But I would do it for you, because either way, the candles will go out. And I want you to have some cake.

Meliss said...

i'm sort of the opposite of a germaphobe. i think all the germs build immunities. not that i invite them, but i just don't really pay attention. bread and cookies on counters and tables don't bother me.

i am grossed out, however, when people blow their noses and put the tissue on the table. or take food out of their mouths and put it on their plates. olive pits aren't a fave either.

oh my, am i actually a germaphobe?

Julie D said...

Yes, you are loons. Which is one of the things I love about you.

I don't even think about half that stuff. I unwrap my silverware and set it down on the table, I admit it. It has never dawned on me to worry that someone who cooked a potluck dish in their own kitchen may have petted their dog.

Don't you worry about whether the guy in the back room has sneezed over your food? Or picked his nose and then handled your burger? Eating out isn't all that different than a potluck!

I agree with Mike, those of us not nearly as germophobic don't seem to be any maybe it's not really a germ's just the ick factor you think about that gets you.

~Coach said...


Mimi said...

Oh Linda, you've no idea the laugh you just gave me!
"creating our sterile eating field"...yup, that's me too and I thought I was the only one in the world!
As for putting bread right on the counter, and people with granite worktops are lethal for this, I can't understand it!
Now I've one more to think about in the birthday cake scenario!

DuggleBogey said...

Did the guy who ate the cookie live to tell the tale?

If so, you have your answer...

linda said...

I always carry hand sanitiser in my hand bag. It saves having to worry about coming in contact with germs that are not from me.

When I am stressed I hate to confess that I use Purell as a body wash. Don't ask why, it's a weird thing but it reduces my stress levels.

Home germs are fine, I know them. Public germs are just dire.