Swine Flu: My Germaphobic Nightmare


There’s nothing like an imminent global swine flu pandemic to test a recovering germaphobe’s mettle.

Of course, right after the weekend when I finally turned the corner and let someone else peel an orange for me (knowing full well that particular someone had been coughing up her lungs days before, and was barely 24 hours from contact with her puking children), here comes a worldwide, animal to person/person to person epidemic.

And to think, I just ate out at a Mexican place…twice in three days. I know, Mexican is not Mexico, but still, there’s irony there.

I must say that, to date, my response to the swine flu threat has been pretty measured. I have contemplated but not yet done the following: discontinue eating out, stock up on latex gloves, take my children out of school, buy only local. If you are reading this and are not a germaphobe, then you may not get where I’m coming from about the “buy local” deal, but the way I figure it, we’re getting a lot of produce from a lot of places—if the picker or packer out in who-knows-where is infected and happens to sneeze on my out-of-season strawberries, then it’s USA or bust for a new batch of microscopic menaces.

There’s an argument in favor of pick-your-own, yes?

Thankfully, the advent of hand sanitizer has given me more of a sense of control over the germ fauna in my personal environment. At last count, I’m carrying three bottles of the stuff in my purse, and I have a handy hand sanitizer basket giving a sunny greeting to everyone who comes in my front door. There’s also a hand san bottle on the coffee table, maybe because of that time I played a board game with one of my sick children, only to realize that we were rolling the same coughed-on, sneezed-on, breathed-on die. To be on the safe side, I decided to disinfect before each turn.

As germaphobes go, though, I don’t think I’m that hard core. In fact, I’m relaxing some of my normal restrictions. For example, to minimize illness, my husband, children, and I don’t share food between September and June. But last night at dinner I let my daughter eat someone else’s leftovers. That’s a start, I guess.

Especially because if anyone gets sick, it’ll be her, not me.



  1. Lorraine said,

    April 29, 2009 at 6:47 am

    I don’t even want to contemplate the “swine flu” – where are we booked to go? San Diego – right next to Mexico! I’m hoping that by September it might be safe1 I’m in a “calm panic” because I forgot my flu shot at the doc’s appointment last week and it’s three weeks ’til the next visit!! I’m writing myself notes so I remember but with my luck they’ll be out of vaccine by then.
    I’m thinking about some sanitiser in the classroom. I’m in a relatively small space all day with thirty 10/11 year olds and 20 of them are boys! I’ve run lessons on correct etiquette for coughs, sneezes and hand washing! I have towels and soap available in the room. Ah, the joys of teaching!

    • scheirmad said,

      April 29, 2009 at 10:18 am

      Oh, yes, when it comes to germs you teachers are very brave!!

      You know, I have a college friend who works for a pharmaceutical company, and he’s been working on flu vaccines for years. In fact, the last time I saw him, he showed me pictures from his recent trip to Europe for an international flu pandemic conference. I keep telling myself, “It’ll be OK. Sam’s working on it!!”

  2. May 1, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    […] my friend and esteemed colleague Cheryl, whose germophobia is being featured in an upcoming Washington Post piece (you go girl!), I am a determined Ignorer.  […]

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