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Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

May 12, 2011

Am I hallucinating or did I really just google “shopping carts fecal matter”?  My search window confirms it:  shopping+carts+fecal+matter.  Even more disturbing than the search term itself are the results:  over 660,000 hits, including numerous references to the recent news item I was searching for (Fecal Matter Found on 72 Percent of Grocery Carts).

Ready for anything - even the grocery store

I have to say, fecal matter seems to be pooping…er, popping up all over the place.  First it was found on bathroom faucet handles and public phones, then it moved on to bagged salad greens, hot tubs, and soda fountains.  Now we find out that grocery carts are contaminated too.  What is this, the great doo-doo migration?  Are we supposed to poop…er, pop into hazmat suits before any shopping excursions to the dirty and dangerous grocery store?  I can tell you one thing:  my early morning pre-coffee, no makeup, snarling schleps to the local Kroger are already a public menace.  I don’t see showing up in full-on protective gear as endearing me to my fellow shoppers. 

To be honest, I’d just rather not hear about it.  If nasty germs are lurking everywhere – and really, don’t we already know that? – why do we need a breathless announcement each time a college student swabs another surface?  Is it gross?  Yes.  Did the gag reflex kick in a little when I first read about it?  Yes.  But does the headline truly accomplish anything positive for public health?  I don’t think so.  Generations of moms were already skeeved out by shopping carts because we knew thousands of strangers had touched, rubbed, sneezed and who-knows-what-else all over them before we plopped our little darlings down in the seat.  We did our best to keep them from mouthing the cart and at the end of the shopping trip we wiped their hands off.  No panic, no sweat, no tears. 

It comes down to this:  wash your hands, and teach your children to wash their hands!  Wash your hands when you use the facilities.  (Yes, those facilities.  Everyone says they do but check out A Whole Lot of Us are Big Fat Liars with Biohazardous Hands for some surprising stats).  Wash your hands whenever you return home or to the office after having been out and about.  Wash your hands before you prepare food or put away clean dishes.  Keep hand sanitizer in your purse (Howard Hughes Would Have Loved Purell) and share it liberally with your children and loved ones.   

At the end of the day, I’ve decided that in the big scheme of things some microscopic bits of ick on my grocery cart aren’t worth the energy it would take to panic, and I’m happy to see that  a microbiology professor agrees.  I’m not going to ask where fecal matter may turn up next, and I’d really prefer if you didn’t tell me.  I think I’d rather read about the woman who went in for oral surgery and woke up with a Transylvanian accent.  Bela Lugosi in a housecoat?  Now there’s something to be frightened of.

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