29 January 2013

Stayin' Alive

No getting around it, we live in a dirty world.  Little wonder people are ill and (quite literally) dying from influenza and pneumonia.

You can sit on any public conveyance on any given day and watch a man (or a woman or a child) wipe his or her nose with his or her bare hands and then grasp the bars we all end up touching to steady ourselves.  Those same hands will be touching just about everything you use over the course of the rest of that day:
  • the pen the store clerk hands to you so you can sign the credit card receipt
  • the stylus on the ubiquitous signature pads you'll sign, either in stores you visit or to claim packages from FedEx or UPS drivers
  • the faucets you turn on and off in public restrooms
  • the door handles to every building you enter or exit
  • the buttons on every possible keypad you use at the store or ATM
  • the buttons you push to get on elevators and the ones you push to make it take you where you need to go
  • the aforementioned bars, handles, knobs, turnstiles or seat backs on buses, cabs, trolleys, subways, trains, or airplanes
It's enough to make you.. well... SICK.

You think you're okay?  That you have a good grasp on personal hygiene? So did I, before I was flat on my back for three weeks.  I realized then that all bets are off if you're trapped in line at a pharmacy behind a person who used the credit card stylus after sneezing into his hand. 

Sadly, not even the best-intentioned most fastidious citizens can protect themselves on the basis of mere hand-washing.  Not when every surface we touch is like a petri dish of infection.  If you want to stay well and live through the winter, what's needed is a hygiene strategy worthy of any neurotic germaphobe.  Here, then, are some recommendations:
  1. carry your own stylus (you can get a pack of 3 for $14) and keep one on you at all times so you can whip it out when you need to sign an electronic signature pad
  2. carry your own ballpoint pen to sign paper receipts and NEVER accept the pen a clerk tries to hand to you
  3. always have cheap knit gloves with you when you go out (they're sold in packs of 3 in the Dollar Store) so you can put them on when you need to use anything in public, including ATMs, door handles, steadying bars on the bus, elevator buttons.  If you do need your hands free, then remove the gloves and store them inside-out in a pocket you're not using for anything else. And when you get home, throw them in the laundry and take a clean pair out for next time.
  4. get in the habit of not touching your face -- the chances that you've recently handled something that was swimming in germs is too high, and those little suckers live for 48 hours
  5.  if someone tries to shake your hand, beat them to the punch by touching the side of their left forearm with your right hand and saying "It's SO nice to meet you!" with a big smile 
  6. clean your office or home computer keypad (and the mouse) with sanitizing wipes once a day
  7. clean the buttons, dial, and handset on your telephone once a day
  8. many stores provide sanitizer wipes for grocery cart handles -- carry your own in case they don't
  9. put guest towels into the laundry as soon as a guest leaves and wipe down the faucets
  10. if you work in an office, wipe down doorknobs, handles, photocopier buttons, microwave and Keurig surfaces before you touch them
Does this sound extreme?  Perhaps.  But when I read that a computer keypad is 4x dirtier than a public toilet seat, I'm willing to give extreme a try.

Carry on.

1 comment:

  1. Many good points here. I'd never thought about carrying my own stylus, although I always hate picking one up. I shared these on my FB page to spread the word.