The first thing to remember is that every single one of us has the potential to totally obsess about germs. And why not? We’re all exposed to them. But some folks seem to have achieved a level of germ-phobic behavior that most of us can only dream of. How many times have you seen a guy at Whole Foods with plastic bags taped to his hands and asked yourself why you don’t care about germs as much as he does? What does he know that you don’t, and might you be touching it?
The fact of the matter is many of us would like to be more successfully afraid of that which we can’t see, but for a variety of reasons we’re not. Most of us won’t ever achieve a significant germ neurosis in our lifetime, when in fact each and every one of us has the capacity to easily do so. What separates the Average Joe from the Average Joe who washes his hands twelve times a day? One thing: effort.
Properly obsessing about germs isn’t easy and for that reason a lot of folks give up without even trying. Being terrified of germs means being willing to think about them and keep them front-of-mind at all times. It means never looking at a door handle without thinking there’s probably a trace of pee on that.
While that’s not always easy, the fact is nothing worth having is easy to come by. Do you think Shaquille O’Neal took the easy route? No. He worked hard, mastered his craft, and now he passes a filthy ball to other sweating men and sits on locker room benches naked. But he gets paid a lot of money.
To understand how to be a better germ-phobic you have to understand how a neurotic, germ-obsessed brain works. Take Happy Hour. While most of us quaff martinis and laugh at each other’s jokes, the truly accomplished germ-phobic isn’t so easily distracted. He’s thinking about the olives: The bartender touched the olives with the same hands she takes money with. There’s probably a trace of pee on them.
What it really comes down to is practice. Practice is what separates the average aspiring singer from karaoke master Ashlee Simpson. Practice does indeed make perfect. The more time you spend thinking trace amounts of pee or probably influenza, the easier it will eventually come to you. With enough practice you could be like Elton John, but instead of mastering the piano you’ll be skilled at detecting fecal threats.
One of the great things about building a successful germ neurosis is that you can do it anywhere because germs are everywhere and attacking you at all times. Every waking and sleeping moment of your life has the potential to be yet another educational opportunity that puts you one step closer to being truly, irreversibly obsessed with germs.
Take these moments, and see how a trained germ-phobic mind interprets them:
Signing a credit card slip at Rite Aid.
Typical: [Signs name]
Trained: That pen has been touched by thousands of people, many of whom were at this pharmacy because they were sick. If I touch that thing I will be feverish before I get home. [Pays cash]
Pouring milk at Starbucks.
Typical: [pours milk]
Trained: That thermos has been handled by god knows how many people and no doubt many of them had runny noses because of the weather, and I’m certain they didn’t use tissues. [drinks it black after wiping the lid]
Shaking hands with an old friend from college.
Typical: [shakes hands]
Trained: It’s good to see him but he’s a stockbroker and those guys never was their hands. Plus he may be gay so god knows what he just did in the subway.
How many germ-phobia opportunities does the day present you? It just depends where you go when you leave the house. If you leave the house.
Like many things, success is up to you. With just a little effort on a regular basis you could eventually be that guy at Whole Foods with plastic bags taped to his hands. Make that dream a reality. But first wash your hands – your keyboard is filthy.