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Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Germ theory

I'm sorry about that picture. Even just right clicking and saving it from Google images made me want to wash my hands. (Although, just being alive for more than an hour makes me want to wash my hands). But it's important that you see it, because it shows you how I see the world, and what I'll be talking about in this post. Those Dettol adverts showing green spots of bacteria languishing over kitchen surfaces? That's just what I see with my eyes when I look around my environment. Same goes for the adverts showing a sneezing man on the tube who hasn't covered his face before he rocketed millions upon millions of germs all down the carriage. I don't need a Government-funded poster campaign - that's just what I see with my eyes. 

But I seem to be mostly alone in this. Not everyone knows where germs are. Luckily I'm here to help. I'm not talking about the places you'd expect them to be - bins, the floor, toilets. I'm talking about those hidden germs.

Places where germs are

1) On tube poles

I once read a horrific article about a typical tube carriage. Germ-scientists took an old tube carriage, pulled it apart and counted up all the animal hairs, human excrement, fleas, mites, and types of sweat. They said that each tube pole / rail was covered in the sweat of 300 different people. This entirely-reasonable statistic is wholly responsible for my proficiency in tube surfing. By 'proficient' I don't necessarily mean that I never fall over, only that I never ever touch the rail. Dishonour before rail. 

2) On the bottom of shopping bags 

Think about it - where has that bag been? On the floor of the bus? On the floor of the tube carriage? And then you put it where you prepare food?! Pity poor George, who had literally just signed a 2 year contract to share a house with me, and merrily came into the kitchen on the first day of our tenancy carrying a Tesco bag, which he then dumped on the kitchen counter. I cut over him asking about my day with a blood-curdling shriek. I don't think he's done it since. 

3) Glasses that you've taken out of the cupboard that don't look like they could be used in an advert for 'Finish' rinse aid. 

Probably best to give those a rinse with hot water - just in case.

4) TV remotes 

Gross. I'm not even talking about just in hotels. If there's anything more satisfying than giving your TV remote a quick wipe with Dettol then I haven't found it.  

5) The outside

Notorious for germs, the outside. Just come back in from a bracing country walk? Yeah, wash your hands. That fresh air is filthy. 

6) Tupperware 

Don't even get me started on this. It's not clean, it's never clean - only maybe once when you've first bought it and you've washed it before use and it's only you that's ever used it. And if it's ever been through a dishwasher and gone cloudy then just throw it away - just throw it away and never come back here. I mean it. You're dead to me.

7) Food that strangers have prepared (in a non professional context) 

Obviously I'm not talking about restaurants. If you can't see them making it then it's all fine. (Pizza Express is the exception because those pizzaiolos are so cheery and their hats are so clean and white). Let's just assume the kitchen is spotless - I can't see it, so it probably is. I also don't mean food that friends have cooked for you, or that they've brought along to picnics or whatever. I'm talking about the obvious 'nos'. Office bake-sales, sandwiches at fetes made by people you've never seen before. Food wrapped up in cling-film and put on a tray on a rainy English day, basically. You know exactly what I mean - don't pretend you don't. You know those cakes have lick in them. 

8) Hospitals

EVERYWHERE. And the worst ones - the ones that actually cause disease. Just treat it like a game of Ultimate Tube Surfer and don't touch anything. Open doors with your sleeves, don't go to the toilet, try not to breathe in as much as usual. I've never had to stay in hospital, only visit people. If I had to stay overnight for any reason they'd have to get me pretty drugged up before I'd even think about eating the food. It comes on plastic, and I'd have to eat in in a dirty stuffy ward surrounded by sick people coughing and emitting? No. I just know I'm going to be one of those 80 year olds who dies on a hospital ward because no-one checked she was eating.

9) Toilets

Obviously this is one you know - or at least you think you know. At this point I'll hand over to Charlie Brooker, who says it perfectly here:

Using a clean bit of toilet paper as a makeshift "glove" you can lift the seat, shut the lock, operate the flusher and then, if you're really good, spin round and unlock the door, then toss said "paper glove" down the swirling pan before the flush cycle finishes. Do it correctly and an entire forensic team couldn't prove you were there. 
You're my hero, Charlie. 

10) The air on planes

You can't do anything about this. I've tried, but you really can't. You just have to pretend it's not happening. I'm sorry I've told you about it, actually. Just forget you read this. 

Places where germs aren't

Now I'm going to list the places that you might think, according to my mental list above, that I might think there might be germs. Only there aren't. These are the exceptions - this is just how germ-science works. 

1) On people you fancy

I don't know why this is. I just know that if you fancy someone, and are therefore entertaining the idea of letting them near you with their face and their spit then that means they don't have germs. Same actually goes for people you've kissed in the past - like exes. Even if you don't fancy them anymore, they're still safe to share a drink with, etc, because you're immune to their germs. They only have the nice germs, like Yakult. 

2) If I'm on my last Malteaser and I drop it on the floor but I'm at home and I have no other chocolate in the house.

I don't make the rules.

3) On second hand books / books from the library 

Literature makes everything clean. If there's words inside it doesn't matter if the cover's a bit sticky - I can take that.

Germ heroes

1) My Mum
She taught me everything I know about germs. Only she now ignores most of these rules and denies all knowledge of having such an impact on me in my FORMATIVE YEARS.

2) Charlie Brooker
See above

3) Niles Crane
For so many reasons. The germ-thing is just a bonus.

4) Louis Pasteur 
I was going to Google image him to see what he looked like but I don't want to dispel the illusion I have that he is a total hottie.

5) A friend of mine who I won't name but who is the only person who has ever matched me in germ-awareness. In fact I think at times he surpasses me. You know who you are and you're a bloody inspiration to me.

So that was my germ post. Let's hope I still have some friends left after they've read this.

Now go and wash your hands. 

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