“The first thing I’m going to do is clean it,” I tell her. At this, she raises her eyebrows. “What do you mean? You know that they clean it before you move in, right?”
“Um, yeah. Maybe. That’s what they say,” I add. “But I’m pretty sure their definition of clean and my definition of clean are very different.”
Mom rolls her eyes; as always, she is completely oblivious to the hundreds of billions of imaginary germs lurking on every surface we touch – except for the ones that my brain has (perhaps arbitrarily) decided are “clean.”
I am not, and never have been, any kind of diagnose-able form of germ-fearer. But! When it comes to certain things – mostly the nooks-and-crannies of public places – I am nearly paralyzed with disgust at what I know is there.
To illustrate the paradox:
I have almost absolutely no problem finding an errant Cheerio or chocolate chip on the floor of my parents’ kitchen and popping it in my mouth. Said Cheerio or chip could have possibly been on the floor for weeks. This is incredibly disgusting, I guess. But hey – I love cereal. Of course, said food particle must be in an area of the floor that I designate as “clean” – this does not include the space where the shitty vinyl flooring meets the walls and/or cabinets (ew) or anywhere within 5″ of the floor vent (double ew) or in the dark, fuzzy spaces under the oven and between the dishwasher and refrigerator (triple-quadruple-quintuple ew).
In the middle of the floor, in perhaps the most highly-trafficked areas, are completely fair game.
When dining in a restaurant, I hate sitting at booths. When this is the only option presented, or I am overruled, it’s okay as long as I don’t have to sit on the inside. This is because the place where Booth meets Wall is filthy. I do not want my coat touching it. I do not want my purse touching it, and there’s no way in hell any square inch of my person will touch it. There must always be at least six inches between myself or my belongings and that wall.
I once saw a kid at a McDonald’s lick the top of a salt shaker and then put it back on the table. I will not use a salt shaker at a restaurant.
I’ve also seen people take the sleeve of their shirt to wipe crumbs off the table. This is a shame; that shirt must now be burned.
Sometimes, after using a public restroom and washing my hands, I must immediately seek out a second, more clean, sink. This is because using the soap or turning on the faucet has somehow made me feel like my hands are even more disgustingly dirty.
Yes, I carry Purell in my purse, because sometimes a backup sink is not available.
I will not wear my work shoes in the house. The floor there (work) is filthy (with just cause, this is not a dig on the cleanliness of my place of work). When I walk in the door, shoes immediately come off – before coat, before hat, before gloves. Socks are a close second, and yes, I realize that walking barefoot in a house of people who wear shoes all the damn time! (how do they do it?!) is probably equally as nasty.
I know people who have no problem using hotel pillows with abandon. I envy their carefree-ness. I have to cover them with a towel before my head can touch them. However, after I have stayed in the same hotel room for two consecutive nights, I can then remove the towel and sleep with direct head-to-pillow contact.
I air these little peccadilloes to you, gentle reader, in the hopes of a) perhaps making you less self-conscious of your own obsessive-compulsive tendencies and b) to encourage you to share your own, so that I can feel less weird.
You know I’m a germ freak. I do not share your fear of booths or floor vents, but…
I will not eat anything off of a floor or restaurant table. When someone knocks a piece of food off their plate onto the table and then puts it back on their plate, I shudder.
When the waiter/waitress appears with my food, I look very closely to see if his/her fingers touch any of it. If some food has been touched, that food is taken off the plate and goes uneaten.
I don’t like when bottoms of other dishes touch the food on my dish. Like salad dressing cups. Where was the bottom of that cup before it landed on top of my salad?
I will do my very best not to touch faucets, dryers, or doors in public restrooms. I always use a paper towel to open the door as I leave the restroom. I think it should be mandatory for all public restrooms to have one of those things at the bottom of the door that lets you open it with your foot. Genius.
I must wash my hands with soap and water before I eat anything with my hands. If soap and water are unavailable, I will still eat, but not the pieces of food I actually touch.
I fear cooking with meat because of cross-contamination.
I also take off my shoes as soon as I enter my place or my parents’ place.