When I was a kid, I liked bugs. Maybe that was strange. Or maybe it was just part of my early fascination with nature.
I remember being fascinated with the beetles that gravitated to the white flowered bushes surrounding our house. Sometimes I would let a beetle crawl on my arm, enjoying the tickling sensation. I told you I was weird.
That fascination with bugs meant I spoiled the fun of mischievous neighborhood boys who got a kick out of capturing insects and throwing them on girls. Instead of running away shrieking like the others girls did, I played with the insects.
And sure, I was one of those kids who caught bumblebees, put them in a jar with holes in the lid, and watched them for a while before letting them go.
Lightening bugs always fascinated me and still do. What kid could resist running through a field to catch lightening bugs?
My mother, like most parents of that time, let me run free each day, playing outdoors until it turned dark. She only had one thing she asked of me: Stay clean. But I never managed that.
Playing in mud was part of childhood. So was playing in the creek. We just couldn't let our parents know about the creek. They thought we might drown.
What we didn't know then was that there was a bigger danger in playing in the creek – raw sewage discharged into it. How we all didn't die of Typhoid Fever or some infectious disease is beyond me.
Sometimes, when I remember things like that, I wonder how I ever lived long enough to grow up.
My daughters never shared my fascination with insects. They never played in dirt and had a propensity to remain clean. My grandkids are the same way.
I've often been surprised at how much they worry about germs. No one has to tell them to wash their hands or not use other people's towels or personal items. They seem to have been born with a phobia about germs.
From what I told you about my childhood, you know I never had that phobia. Until now. I'm getting to the point where I'm afraid of germs, too.
No wonder. We are bombarded with warnings about germs lurking everywhere.
The kitchen sink, we are told, harbors more germs than the toilet area.
Food contains contaminants that can make us sick, we have learned.
We have been schooled to carefully wash lettuce, other produce and fruit because they might harbor germs that will sicken us.
This week takes the cake. We were warned about showerheads. They just don't spray water. Millions of bacteria, we are told, rain down on us along with the water.
One researcher released a warning this week saying it is healthier to breathe the air in a New York subway than to shower in our own homes.
I don't know about you but I have reached overload.
At first I bought antibacterial soap, threw away kitchen sponges and wiped down counters with powerful cleaners.
After each use, I scrubbed my cutting board with the zeal of an operating room supervisor.
When warning came out about chicken, I avoided chicken.
When recent news stories warned about the deadly bacteria in ground beef, I stopped buying it.
I wash grapes carefully and scrub fruit with gusto.
When I was on a cruise ship, I walked long flights of stairs without touching the railings. They might harbor germs, we were told.
I buy antibacterial wipes to take along when I'm out.
When I'm not washing my hands, I'm worrying about the need to wash my hands.
With each new article, we are given notice of more germs to worry about.
Maybe we should all sing, "They're coming to take us away, away."
While I was never afraid of bugs, there is one bug that is scaring many of us Swine Flu, or, as it is now called, H1N1. If you want to make people run as if a bomb was just discovered, sneeze. People will back away from you in fear
A favorite newspaper colleague of mine was sent to deliver homemade soup and other food to a co-worker who was out of work for a week with the flu. He rang her doorbell, ran away as fast as he could and was down her driveway by the time she opened the door. He then wrote a column admitting the flu is one bug that makes him run in fear.
Fear of germs is even affecting what I do in my church which has two practices that worry a lot of people. One is the handshake of peace where we shake the hands of everyone around us. The other is having everyone drink the communion wine from the same cup.
Last week in church the man next to me sneezed many times into his bare hands. Do you think I wanted to shake his hand?
I also resolved that the breakout of H1N1 flu in our area was going to make me stop drinking from the common communion cup. Much to my surprise, the practice was stopped. Maybe many people had the same worries.
Well, I could worry about germs on the grocery cart, germs on public doors and germs coming out of my shower. I could, but I'm sick of worrying about getting sick.
I read somewhere that people who were exposed to a lot of germs in their childhood have a much higher immunity than those who were not.
Considering all the time I spent as a kid playing in a sewage-infected creek, I should have the world's best immunity system.
Meanwhile, I'm not sick from any of those hidden germs lurking on every surface. But I am sick and tired of hearing about them.