Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Dirty Glass.

I'm a germophobe.  Not just your ordinary I-hate-being-sick-and-therefore-I-hate-germs germophobe, but I mean a die hard.  Like, really hard.  I'll catch myself holding my breath when I'm in public and I know something is going around.

The other day, I was walking through the grocery store and someone sneezed just as I turned into the aisle.  My response was completely instinctive.  I flung myself about two feet to the right, ducked way below head-level and hurried to the opposite end of the aisle.  Holding my breath, naturally.  Good thing their back was turned.

Hand sanitizer is my Star of Elendil -- my saving grace.  I'm never without a bottle (or two).  When I worked as a counselor at a summer camp, I kept a massive bottle of it on the dresser beside my bunk.  "Feel free to help yourselves anytime," I always told my kids.  And prayed that they would.

And public restrooms?  Don't get me started!  When I leave a public restroom, I feel like burning my shoes.  I'm not kidding.  My feet absolutely crawl; I can almost see the bacteria festering on the underside.  Public restrooms must be the equivalent of Purgatory or something.  Want to torture me?  Lock me in one some time.  And turn off the lights.  You'll get the information you need within five minutes.  (I promise.)

Even the soap feels contaminated.  I wash my hands in scalding hot water, use my jeans as a towel if there are only hot-air dryers available (bacteria breeding ground, much?) and then either wait until someone else leaves (or enters) the restroom and will open the door for me, or (if I don't have an amused crowd of onlookers) I'll perform one of my greatest acrobatic maneuvers of all time.  It's called something like the, "Jenn-strrrretches-and-opens-the-door-with-the-back-of-one-flip-flop-while-trying-to-maintain-her-equilibrium-by-hopping-erratically-about-on-the-other-foot" move.  (I think the Olympics has an official category for that.  Just saying.)

I worry about food poisoning too.  Not that I've ever had it, mind you.  I just worry about it.  So much, in fact, that when dishes come out of the dishwasher with residual crud on them, I feel sure that if I unwittingly eat something out of a contaminated bowl, I'll be among the unfortunate 9,000 or so people who die annually from food-related illnesses.  (Yes, I know these elusive facts.)

So, this evening, I was unloading the dishwasher in search of the perfect cereal bowl to use for my late-night Cheerios indulgence.  I tend to be a little particular about which bowls and spoons and plates and -- yeah, you get the idea.  So, when I did find the perfect bowl, I turned it over only to find some of the aforementioned residual crud.  FOODPOISONINGALERT!

I went over to the sink and began to diligently scrub away at it (it was a teensy, crusty spot along the rim, but hey....), using plenty of soap and hot water.  As I scrubbed, I reflected on how many times crusty or smudges dishes had sent me to the sink with soap and hot water.  And then I remembered drinking glasses.

I have this thing about drinking glasses.  Every time I pull one out of the cupboard, I never fill it immediately with water.  I first hold it up to the light and rotate it slowly, checking for residual crud.  As I washed my bowl, I realized that, without even thinking about it, when someone else asked me to grab a drink for them (except under very rare circumstances) I almost never checked their glasses for crud.

Not a huge deal, I suppose.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how little that makes sense.  Other people may not be as obsessed about food poisoning as I am, but that doesn't mean they want to drink out of dirty glasses either.  If we honored the preferences of others even half as much as we honored our own (little things: like, remembering which spoon is our favorite; washing our drinking glasses before filling them; leaving off the Cool-Whip or serving our steak well-done) we'd be living in a different world.

"Do to others as you would have them do to you."  The command seems so simple.  And yet, it's not! Big sacrifices are sometimes just easier to make.  Besides the fact that everybody notices and you get to feel generally heroic for giving up your rights, they're also pretty cut-and-dry!  Small sacrifices?  Not so much.  A life of "doing to others" demands a consistent, sometimes excruciating death to self.  And that's not easy!

Do you do unto others?

(There should be a bumper sticker that says that.)

(It's catchy.)

(Kind of.)


Andrew said...

lol this is so funny! But that's so true. We hardly ever put people first even in the small things.

Katherine said...

I'm a germophobe as well, but not quite that bad. I hear you about public restrooms too - yech! :o)

Mark said...

Ran across your blog thru Stuff Christians Like. Just wanted to give a shout-out and say merry Cmas - love the blog! God bless.

Jenn Joshua said...

Thanks, guys! Hopefully I'll get over my germophobic tendencies while I'm in Kenya.