Last week I did something sinfully delightful. Yes, I’ll admit it; my fingers were fully naked as well. See I allowed them to play in the dirt. Not just a little dirt mind you; but a garden full of worm-infested dark brown stuff – the kind that grows gargantuan tomatoes and crisp snap peas. And you know what, when I was done, I gave my digits a good scrubbing and low and behold, I didn’t get sick.
I’m all for sanitation and keeping clean and all that, but sometimes I can’t help but feel as a society we are going overboard. I rest my case with all the new-fangled devices developed for public restrooms lately.
Now some of these inventions are indeed revolutionary in regards to germ warfare. I’m personally all for the auto-flush toilets. Genius. I’m even a fan of the auto-sink contraptions that go the distance from wetting your hands to rinsing off the pre-applied soap. The blow-dry machines save paper towels and thus trees in the process. But are we letting germ fears drive us up the hill of hysteria, only to plummet down a slippery sloop of I-can’t-touch-anything-anymore?
The newest addition to the bathroom saga is doors that don’t require any hands.
I personally experienced one the other day without knowing it. I had finished my “business” and was walking over to the door, my fingers tingly clean from their brisk jet dry, when I noticed what looked like a cow-catcher attached to the base. I pondered the contraption’s reason for a moment or two, before the light bulb flickered above my head. Ah-ah. Slipping my foot into the metal harness I yanked it back and voila – the door was open, hand and germ free. And yet, would I have really gotten deathly ill if I had opened that door with my hand? I’ve been opening doors for over 50 years and I’m still alive.
Another company stepped this idea up a bit by providing fine mist sprays that when positioned atop or to the side of door handles sweep across them every 30-60 seconds giving the user a sanitized surface for which to grab.
None of these items are bad. In fact they are quite functional and serve a purpose, but are they really necessary? We live in a world of germs, many are beneficial. Mother Earth is full of tiny creatures, creepy crawlies and microscopic bugaboos.
They also exist on our skin, in our mouths and under our nails. Gross? Perhaps, but that’s a fact of life. Trying to avoid everything that might touch us, or that we touch is ludicrous, because we can’t. And we weren’t supposed to. Exposure jumpstarts our antibodies, provides us with protection from many germs we are trying so desperately to avoid.
And you hear on a daily basis how the overuse of antibiotics is proving to be our downfall health-wise.
Environmentally, we need to re-think our stance on avoidance. The return of common sense and moderation might be the ticket. For instance, using less paper towels is great, but are we essentially using more electricity to run the touch-free machines? The same goes for the auto-doors and the pleasant-smelling sani-mists. Over time we will remove ourselves from anything and everything that could possibly harm us in some way. Honestly, is that what we truly want? My doctor shakes my hand in greeting every time she enters the room – then scrubs up of course before the exam.
Clinics and hospitals are germ havens but I can’t imagine living in a world where we are afraid to touch. Personally, I’m going to continue to indulge in sinful activities like gardening, picking up trash when I walk, petting dogs and shaking hands. Life is messy. But I’m also going to wash my hands often to avoid spreading germs to others, that’s common courtesy.
Basically it all comes down to this: we can’t let our germophobic behaviors remove us from the very earth that we are so desperately trying to protect.
As Socrates said, “Everything in moderation.”