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Howard Hughes Would Have Loved Purell

April 1, 2009

After digging up the numbers on people who say they wash their hands after using the bathroom and those who actually do it (see “A Whole Lot of Us are Big Fat Liars with Biohazardous Hands“) I’m more squeamish than ever about germs.

Is it just me, or does anyone else get skeeved out by menus?  You’re handed this thing which in turn has been handled by myriad other people with varying degrees of cleanliness (see above) over a period of…who knows?  Weeks?  Certainly.  Months?  Very likely.  Years?  I wouldn’t be surprised.  You thumb through it carefully, opening and closing it, flipping it back and forth as you peruse the options.  By the time you order your food and hand it back to the waiter, there’s sure to be more nasty little germs setting up shop on your fingers than there are zeros in an AIG exec’s bonus (before the feds take it back).  And then…you eat.  Bon appetite!

Thank goodness for hand sanitizer.  Germy menu?  No problem.  Skanky shopping cart handlebar?  Likewise.  As far as I’m concerned, Purell is the magic elixer of life, and life is better when the magic elixer is spread around freely and liberally.  In fact, I’ve been accused of whipping out my hand sanitizer more often than the High School Musical gang breaks into full-blown song and dance mode. 

This really is a product of the fact that I’m a mom.  I am constantly amazed at how often kids can find a reason to stick their fingers into their mouths, nose or eyes.  This behavior apparently increases exponentially in relation to the proximity of their hands to potentially germy things.  So if we’re out and about and the kids are touching toys on the display shelf (that a bazillion other kids have touched), handrails (that a gazillion other people have touched) door handles and shopping cart handles (that googolplex – look it up – strangers have touched) can you really blame me for giving them a shot of hand sanitizer every five minutes? 

I have to admit to a bit of uneasiness though, as I sometimes wonder if I’m raising a couple of potential Howard Hugheses.  No, not the dashing, insanely wealthy, brilliant playboy Howard Hughes.  Rather, the man who in his latter years was a germophobic hermit who supposedly kept all of his finger and toenail clippings in a jar.  Clearly this is not what I’m aiming for.  Cut down on germy hands and cold and flu cases?  Yes.  OCD (or worse)?  No.  

Once again I’m faced with a parental balancing act.  I have to be honest with myself; I’ll work on controlling my knee-jerk hand sanitizing reaction, but I’ll never give up my Purell.  Unfortunately for him (although clearly there were other issues, too) Howard Hughes was born a few generations too soon to reap the benefits of a handy little bottle of germ killer, but my kids and I weren’t.

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