Friday, November 14, 2008

If you can’t beat ‘em, kill ‘em all...?

My little boy started sniffling a tad on Monday night, and by Tuesday morning he was lackluster and sporting some green goo in one nostril. I kept him home from preschool, hoping that whatever it was would be short-lived. Sadly, the unidentifiable viral manifestation seems to have established itself pretty effectively in the child; goo continues to leak, the weariness and crabbiness persist, and more school and activities have been missed. And I’ve lost a little bit of my sanity, it’s true—you just don’t realize how much you come to rely on those few isolated hours of time to for a thought or spend as you wish. Combine that lost sanity with an unceasing flood from my child’s nose, sprinkle in very little sleep for all of us because of his coughing and misery—and shake it all up: you have a generally cantankerous household.

So, I’m not myself—no one in our home is right now. But I never thought I’d turn into a germophobe. I mean, I’m not a complete slob, I try to wash my hands frequently and not leave food lying around begging for infestation, I remind my kid not to rub his nose or eyes at the public library, we don’t share toothbrushes or anything like that. But still, I never got too uptight about germs. I assumed they were everywhere, and some were rather hateful and insidious, but I could take ‘em so no big deal. The same was true for bacteria, with the added complication that some bacteria was good, even necessary. I felt it best to leave the unseen world of infestation alone, and it would hopefully leave me alone.

Now? I can clearly picture that place and its disgusting tiny inhabitants. Everywhere. Is it motherhood that’s engendered this heightened sense of germ perception? Is it older age, the growing nagging yearly confrontation with my own life’s calendar? Is it the fear of super-germs that defy all attempts to eradicate them? Whatever the cause, I “see” these nasties all over the place. My child sneezes or coughs on me, and I watch the little thugs clear as day in my mind’s eye, flying out from his face and clinging desperately to my own. Other people that I observe suddenly seem obsessed with rubbing their faces, their hair, wiping their noses in what they think are unobtrusive ways… and each time I witness these daily habits of my fellow humans, now those habits are accompanied in my mind by the horrific distribution of miniscule monsters. The tricky little devils plant themselves in new hosts through unguarded moments like friendly hugs and handshakes, through shared contact via a computer mouse or keyboard, even by means of the lowly but deadly pen.

The whole world is crawling. How did I miss it all those years? I'm compelled to wash every cloth item I can reach, to start spraying diluted bleach everywhere—it's all contaminated, nothing's safe. Yet I also struggle to hold fast to my unsanitized world. I’ve read those reports—I know that sanitizer abuse will be our undoing. Put down that bottle, people! Step away from the antibacterial everything! It will kill the good stuff, too! Still, I’ve found myself eyeing bottles of Purell. Someone showed up at the craft store with a tiny container of it attached to a keychain, and I felt a pang of envy before I made myself turn away.

Must. Remain. Normal. Must not kill all germs and bacteria. Must allow nature to take its course.

My throat feels scratchy, and I think I’m getting a fever. Those little bastids.

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