Don’t Stand So Close To Me
Wow. Late October already. You know what that means.
No, it is not time to erect an elaborate Halloween diorama on your porch with a mechanical coffin, smoke machine and scary sound effects.
It's never the right time for that.
What’s wrong with you, anyway? Three ears of Indian corn on the door and a single pumpkin on the porch is a nice understated nod to the season.
Late October means we're on the cusp of cold and flu season.
Time for a Pass-the-Purell-and-Keep-Your-Grubby-Paws-To-Yourself piece. I specialized in these as a newspaper columnist.
Fact is, flu shots can do just so much. And I never get one. Instead, I rely on what epidemiologists and farmers refer to as “herd immunity” for protection.
In other words, if most members of the herd have been vaccinated, the rest are safe from contagious disease.
So I’d appreciate it if you got a shot. Thanks.
Those of us who bravely - or stupidly - march into flu season unprotected know we have to be extra vigilant about pathogens.
There are simple things to do, like using hand sanitizers, avoiding doorknobs and carrying your own reading material to your doctor's office. (You don't want to know what is growing on that well-thumbed copy of People magazine. Trust me.)
Yet there are more advanced sanitary techniques: Foot flushing, for instance. Are you still touching public toilets with your fingers? Stop. No matter how high the handle, flush with your shoe. (Take a yoga class if you need more flexibility.)
It’s also worth learning how to shoulder your way out of a public restroom to keep your freshly laundered fingers clean.
For years I’ve had a one-woman Sunday morning boycott of the awkward holding-hands-with-strangers ritual during the Lord’s Prayer. I’m not proud to admit this, but when my kids were small I used them as buffers in church. One kid on each side so I never held hands with anyone but my own flesh and blood. I let them put their grubby paws in the hands of wheezing worshippers.
Yes, I risked the health of my offspring, but they were kids. Their noses dripped all winter anyway.
Without small children, I now engage in strategic church sitting: I find a place on the pew a healthy distance away from others and try to appear deep in prayer should anyone reach for my hand.
The way I see it, God - who created everything, including microbes - gave us both scientists and smarts. Scientists tell us that human hands are crawling with contaminants. Smarts tell us not to press palms unless absolutely necessary.
Stained glass is pretty, but last time I checked, it offered zero protection against pathogens. Do not touch me in church. You’ve been warned. And don’t get me started on the common communion cup. Lordy.
In 17 years as a germ-conscious columnist I interviewed at least a dozen microbiologists about contaminated surfaces. As a result, my do-not-touch list grew with each flu season.
One scientist claimed that the filthiest item she’d ever tested was an airline tray. Another said it was the bottom of a woman’s purse. Still another said it was a hotel remote control.
One fellow said it was a cell phone.
I remember a California scientist telling me that it was a huge mistake to ask a waiter to wipe down a table. In a study he’d conducted, a crumby table had fewer pathogens than a freshly wiped one. Seems the cloths used to clean tables were like soft petri dishes.
I also learned that library books are frequently full of germs. (Some bookworms read in the bathroom.) So are menus, computer keyboards and hotel bedspreads. Movie theater seats? Disgusting. Touchscreens? Contaminated. ATM and gas station keypads? Crawling with cooties.
My advice to you as we enter flu season: Get a flu shot. Wear gloves until spring. And let’s all agree not to touch each other.