Monday, May 14, 2007

Germ warfare

I don’t consider myself a hypochondriac or OCD cleanly. I can apathetically step over dog poop on the sidewalks, workout next to the guy who refuses to apply deodorant before going to the gym, and I can see someone vomiting on the street without it causing me to lose my lunch.

But one thing does really bother me: sneezing.

Okay, bear with me.

I remember years ago seeing some cold or flu commercial claiming that when someone sneezes, the force at which mucus and whatever propels out of the nose and mouth can equal 100 mph. They demonstrated this by showing a person sneezing in a crowded elevator, and having animated particles shooting out of the person’s oraface, bouncing around the walls and landing all over the other people standing in the elevator.

This animated 30-second commercial has haunted me for the last 10 years.

Fortunately, I haven’t been caught in that scenario yet (knock on wood). But I am 100% sure that when that fateful day comes, I’m going to lose my shit. I’m talking a Cold War duck-and-cover reaction, and I’m not discounting the possibility of hysterical screaming.

I live in freaking New York City, one of the most densely crowded, dirty cities in America. People here can drink their SmartWater, eat their all-natural Guy and Gallaird salads all they want. None of that curbs my amazement that there’s such a low frequency of people simply keeling over on the street and dying.

All I’m saying is we can all do little things like covering our freaking mouths when we sneeze. Try to deflect that 100 mph germy spray from other people.

Granted, the elevator deathtrap sneeze is a low risk occurrence. So here’s another, more pressing issue on my mind: people eating on the subway trains.

Can someone tell me who in their right mind wants to consume their food in the most rank, disgustingly dirty place in the city? The environment is composed of garbage, homeless people, rats and roaches, yet someone will still willingly bring on a bag of fast food and eat it like their dining in Bryant Park.

I can admit to occasionally being enticed by the smell of fries and forgo common nutritional sense to give in to a fast food craving. In the right context, they can smell great. But if I smell that same smell walking onto a train, it can be worse than feces.

But I know it’s not just the smell of fries. Just last week I sat across from a young, normal looking, professionally dressed woman who, as the train began to move, busted out her Whole Foods salad bar box and began munching on her salad. The sight of this began to make my stomach churn.

I’m sure some people are wondering what’s the big deal? I think that, like the sneezing thing, my mind is working on a microscopic level. Just because your food hasn’t touched the floor of the subway train, doesn’t mean it hasn’t been defiled by the environment.

I once stood in a station and had a cockroach the length of my middle finger fly and land on my neck. I’ve waited for a train and watch rats drink from a black puddle of grime with a half of a dead rat floating in it.

The subway is a dirty, dirty place.

Can we all just practice a little restraint and hold off on the consumption of food until we get topside?

If not then I propose that the MTA attendants should be instructed to expand their inspections beyond firearms and other weapons.

“Excuse me, sir. Are you carrying any firearms? How about explosives? Okay fine. Wait, what’s in the bag? Mickey-Dee’s? Okay sir, you’re going to have to come with me.”

I think the world would be a better place for it.

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