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Germ phobia keeps spreading

Published May 08. 2010 09:00AM

There's a funny song that goes something like, "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Away, ha-haaa."

Well, okay, the subject of that 1960s novelty song wasn't all that funny. It's about someone's slip into madness after suffering a loss.

The lesser-known sequel to it, "They're Coming to Get Me Again, Ha-haaa," is what comes to my mind this week.

Everywhere I turn, I'm told they're coming to get me.

They are silent and cunning, ready to strike in unsuspecting places.

They are hiding in my air conditioning ducts, ready to do me bodily harm.

They are all over my kitchen, ready to attack.

When I flee from the house to escape, I can't because they follow me to my car.

My attackers are germs. They are all over, I'm told. And they're going to get me if I'm not careful.

That's the message we all keep getting from the media. When I leafed through a magazine at the beauty shop, there was another big spread about hidden germs waiting to do us harm.

"Your desk harbors more germs than the bathroom toilet," was one of the warnings screamed in red letters.

It talked about the need to sanitize on a regular basis the top of our desk and mouthpiece and handle on our telephone.

I don't have to worry about germs on the top of my office desk. The top is so buried in papers and clutter that any germ would be smothered before it could find me.

But according to the article, I do have to worry about germs on my cell phone and my home phone. Most of all, I have to worry about all the germs that accumulate on the bottom of my purse which often gets placed on the floor.

Heck, if I am to believe everything I read, we have to worry about germs everywhere. And people are doing exactly that. They are worrying and changing their behavior patterns.

Our church service has a ritual called the handshake of peace. For years we all smiled at the people around us and shook their hands in a gesture of peace.

But threats of H1N1 first known as Swine flu put an end to that in many churches. The other week in church as I turned to smile at the person on my right, she recoiled away as if I were about to strike her. That was fine with me because earlier in the service she coughed into her hands and I didn't want to touch her germs.

Germs, germs, germs.

Germs are on everyone's mind.

I've had several doctors tell me they never shake hands under any circumstances. I've also heard many others say they don't want to be touched. Period.

Forget hugging close friends you are happy to see. Germ phobia is changing our social habits.

When I come home from church or from a shopping trip, the first thing I do is wash my hands with lots of soap and water. And forget hospitals. It took all my resolve last week to visit my friend Frank in the hospital. While I was there, I was careful not to touch anything but I did worry because we are told hospitals are the easiest place to pick up germs.

Germ phobia is getting to many of us.

During a leisurely shopping trip with a friend, we were leaving a health food store, of all places. As I reached for the door, my friend screamed, "STOP!" She handed me a tissue and told me not to dare touch a door in a public place without a tissue.

She's a nurse so I give some credence to what she says. But ever since then, as I walk in and out of shops, I'm thinking that one would have to carry a lot of wipes to avoid places others have touched.

The more I think about it, the more I think it's impossible.

Okay, say I take along wipes for the supermarket cart and I don't use the public restroom. As I am checking out, the clerk hands me some loose change and some old bills. If germs are everywhere, surely there are germs on money we hold in our naked hands. How does one clean the germs off money?

I have one friend who won't enter a movie theater because she is afraid of germs that lurk there. She feels the same way about airplanes and motels.

When we start thinking like that about germs, we will be singing, "They're Coming to Get Us Again, Ha-Haa."

Last month we went with our dance class on a Holland America Cruiseline. Boarding the ship, there were warnings everywhere about the need to CONSTANTLY sanitize hands to prevent the spread of disease.

We were not allowed in any dining area unless we first used the antibacterial liquid. But we couldn't touch the bottle. An attendant wearing latex gloves was stationed at each door to spray our hands.

Nor were we allowed to get our own water or coffee from the machines. Again, an attendant wearing latex gloves was there to do it for us.

In the rest rooms, there were big signs warning us not to open the door without using a tissue or paper towel for protection. Okay, but we had to first open the door to the stalls - without protection.

See where I'm going with this?

It may not be possible to escape germs but we might escape worrying needlessly. Maybe.

In the meantime, I'm still singing, "They're Coming to Take Me Away Again."

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