Allow me to introduce you to my best friend . Hello, my name is Wendy and I am a germophobe.
I remember the very first time I considered germs to be hazardous. I was working at the time for the American Heart Association and was waiting my turn for the copy machine. The lady at the copier had sneezed two or three times, covered her mouth with her hands, and then she did the unthinkable. She touched the buttons on the copier.
I panicked! I took whatever I needed copied back to my office, sat down at my desk, and thought about what I'd just seen. How many times a day does this happen? How many times have I touched the copier buttons after someone who is carrying a communicable disease has wiped their hands all over it? The common cold...pink eye...? How can I stop this from happening again?! My mind was racing.
This was in 2004, before hand sanitizer was plentiful and clorox wipes existed. What options did I have? After considering a confrontation with my co-worker (aka "the sicko") I decided I'd simply go about my business and remember to wash my hands immediately following my encounter with the copy machine. So I did. Upon drying my hands and reaching for the bathroom door, another thought occurred to me. How many people do not wash their hands after using the bathroom, and then touch this very door handle that I'm about to grab with my freshly sanitized hands?
Suddenly my eyes seemed open to a completely different realm. How could I have been so blind before? How did I survive college? I watched as co-workers used the copier, the paper cutter, the break room coffee pot, doorknob after doorknob - and then went back to their offices and snacked on something with their now-germ-covered hands. This was going to be a problem...
Fast forward 6 or so years. Purell has created a revolutionary new tool! I'm now working in a public school with middle school students. I carry my own pen with me so that I don't have to use a hygiene-deficient student's germ-covered pencil that they've probably been chewing on. I have hand sanitizer with me at all times and don't eat anything without supplying my hands with a healthy dose of it. Any time I return home from a public place, my first stop is the sink to wash my hands. I've read several articles regarding the germiest public places you visit in a day and recently discovered that shopping cart handles and ATM machine buttons are some of the worst offenders.
While you might call me nuts, I like to think of myself as prepared. Cautious. Smart. I don't let these things scare me into becoming a recluse, nor do I worry or frantically chase people around with clorox wipes and disinfectant spray (although I think that's more socially accepted when you have kids, I've seen it happen).
The last time I visited my doctor's office, he asked about my hand washing habits. Meekly, I mentioned that some might consider me a bit of a germophobe. He set down my chart, walked over to me and looked me in the eye. "Wendy," he said, "there is no such thing as a germophobe. You, my dear, are simply conscious of your surroundings and I applaud you for that." Relief washed over me and I felt justified.
Before you start to think I might be OCD, I assure you, nothing could be farther from the truth. Paranoid, maybe, but I prefer to think of myself as aware.