The enemy is out there. They are ready to attack us with no warning. They’re almost impossible to find. We are in danger from them 24 hours a day. They may come from foreign lands, or from America. No matter how much we increase our security measures against them, some of them manage to get through. I’m talking, of course, about germs.
Some of the current germaphobia seems silly. On the other hand (the clean one), germs are real, and people are fighting them like never before. We’re told to wash our hands for longer than we used to think was necessary. The suggestion is that we sing all of, “Happy Birthday” while we wash. For me, it spoils the connotation of “Happy Birthday.”
Public bathrooms are helping us fight germs more and more. The faucets turn on and off automatically and toilets flush without our touching that unbelievably dangerous flusher. In some bathrooms, toilet seat covers magically change themselves when you enter the stall. There is the automatic paper towel dispenser or the hand blower. Either way, I almost always have trouble finding the “electronic eye,” so I can’t figure out how to turn it on and usually end up waving my arms all over the place trying to start it up. So then I wipe my hands on my dirty pants and when I’m ready to leave, I open the bathroom door using the germy doorknob. It doesn’t seem to make sense, does it?
When I was in Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport recently, there was a repeated announcement telling us the proper way to sneeze. I was disappointed that there was no similar announcement describing the proper way to hiccup. Another thing at the airport is that we often see people wearing masks to protect them from cooties or whatever.
Those little bottles of antibacterial stuff are everywhere. Some people even carry them in their purses. I hate to break it to those folks, but unless they vacuum their purses a few times a day while singing “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow,” those purses that they reach into for their hand cleaner are filled with germs.
I was watching one of those morning “news” shows the other day, and they were doing a piece about germs. Specifically, they dealt with how to help your child avoid germs. When my kids were little, the pediatrician said it wasn’t so bad if children got somebody else’s germs. The feeling was that it would help the child build up immunity to germs and diseases. Maybe this approach has changed. I just know that on this particular TV show, parents were warned about the evils of germy lunchboxes, backpacks, and yes, library books. When I was a kid, only those books dealing with human reproduction were considered “dirty library books.”
Many of these “advances” in fighting the germ menace started during the swine flu panic. In fact, I think the one positive thing from the swine flu was that people learned how to avoid sneezing on each other. However, germ-evasiveness has gotten a little out of hand. People avoid shaking hands and touching each other. Fewer and fewer people kiss or hug hello. It all seems to be part of the loss of human contact that we are experiencing in this generation.
People e-mail or tweet instead of actually talking to their friend or loved one. We see movies at home instead of venturing out in public where we might actually see other people. Men and women meet each other online, and sometimes even have their first few dates electronically instead of actually seeing each other in the flesh.
I’m certainly not hopeful that this trend will reverse itself. Ironically, germ-avoidance will continue to spread swiftly and pervasively like a virus. Plastic on grocery basket handles and washing toys until the paint rubs off are only signs of the beginning. Don’t be surprised if some time in the near future, there is an invention that will prevent people from ever getting a germ from someone else. It will protect us from head to toe. It will be hailed as the most important miracle cure since penicillin. And I will call it the “The Full Body Condom” (Patent Pending).
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from “Sesame Street” to “Family Ties” to “Home Improvement” to “Frasier.” He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his website at lloydgarver.com and his podcasts on iTunes.