As an admitted germaphobe, I face a daily battle in the war against potential germs, and that war intensifies during the flu season. If you, too, are a germaphobe, you are not alone!
I don’t mean to appear insensitive to those who are suffering with the flu and are forced to venture out in public places or go to work, but when I see and hear coughing in public that goes unprotected and is deploying troops of germs into the flu war zone, I run for cover! In church this past Sunday, I positioned myself in an area of pews where there was no one was in front of me or behind me. I probably shouldn’t be this honest about my personal idiosyncrasies in public settings, but honesty is one of the steps toward dealing with being a germaphobe.
After mass started, a family sat in the pew in front of me – how dare they! When one of them started coughing, my first instinct was to retreat, and that I did. I’m sure there were a few people in church wondering why I suddenly decided to move to another pew, but my desire to seek refuge from possible flu germs was more powerful than the slight embarrassment I might suffer.
For the record, I did get a flu shot early in the season, as I usually do, and while that is what I consider good protective armor in the war against the flu, I don’t take for granted that it’s enough protection.
One of the problems in the war against flu germs is that the enemy is invisible! The enemy can sneak up on you, or be waiting in ambush attack mode for you to come into sight. I see people at the grocery stores using the disinfecting wipes positioned at the doors when they enter the store. I use them when I leave the store! Touching the handle of the grocery basket, touching items in the store and occasionally shaking hands with someone who introduces themselves to me in the store inspire me to use the disinfecting wipes as I’m on my way out.
Please don’t misunderstand me, I am honored to meet anyone who recognizes me in a public setting, and I love meeting people who listen to the show, and I have no problem shaking hands with anyone. But I admit that at some point I will use wipes or wash my hands after I have ventured through a public war zone of germs!
When I get home from the store and touch the door handle of my apartment building and then hit the elevator button, I am eager to wash my hands when I get into my apartment. I also realize that I have touched my keys after touching the door handle and elevator button so I must use a wipe on my keys. When I am walking down the street and someone walking near me coughs or sneezes, I hold my breath as I walk through the area where they may have just launched flu germs into the atmosphere.
I admit that as a soldier in the war against flu germs this time of year, my strategy is extreme and my behavior is irrational; but if you are a germaphobe, like me, these concerns and actions become part of your instincts to survive the flu season.
I’m intelligent enough to understand that we must all be exposed to germs to allow our immune system to build up the forces it needs to defeat any flu germs that infiltrate the demilitarized zone we have created around ourselves, but somehow the fear of germs is greater than rational thinking – which further demonstrates how difficult life is for us germaphobes!
And then there is the workplace! This time of year there is coughing that goes unprotected in the hallways and if someone does attempt to protect their cough with a hand, I have to think about what they might touch next! With no disrespect for those in the studio before I start my show, I wipe down the mic, the on/off switch, the keyboard, the mouse, the phone buttons I hit to put callers on the air and the entire studio counter with disinfecting wipes. I’m exhausted before the show even starts – but my mind is at ease and I can focus on the show.
Every year, I see people at work who are sick or getting sick and often the people who work closely with them get sick, too. If you are sick, I hope you are encouraged to stay home because you have the potential to infect others. Unfortunately, many bosses expect you to be at work no matter what.
In general, we should all be more respectful of others. Not only must we protect ourselves from flu germs, but those who are sick could do a lot more toward preventing others from getting sick. Unprotected coughing and sneezing in public or at work is rude. In Japan, I saw some people walking around wearing surgical masks and my first thought, as a germaphobe, was that they were afraid of catching something from others. I discovered that many of them were actually sick and they were wearing the surgical masks out of consideration of others they might infect. There is no excuse for the overwhelming lack of respect for others during the flu season or any time of year.
Especially this time of year, think about anything you touch that others have touched before you, and then think about what you touch that might be destined for your mouth. And if you are sick, be considerate of others.
I realize that my battles against germs during the flu season (which includes getting the flu shot) does not make me invincible, but I will always maintain a vigilant fight against the enemy!