Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Magic Paper: A Supermarket Fairy Tale


Upon viewing this cartoon on my screen, my son reminded me that this is the one thing that makes me irrationally angry. What thing is that, you ask? Hold your horses, people...I'm getting to that.

A little background:  I'm actually a nurse by training and I spent a lot of time working with respiratory patients, people who were contagious, patients who might not survive another layer of illness, patients with super strains of hospital born infections, and a cornucopia of human funk. I'm gonna go out on a limb and just say that humans are naturally funky-junk producers when they are ill - and pretty much all the other times, too.

My instructors from nursing school would be proud of me. I've never forgotten the mantras I was taught and now I'm going to teach them to you. That way, when your boss or spouse walks by and gives you the ole' tsk-tsk, you can snap back: "I'm learning something here!"

Remember this: 

  • sterile + sterile = sterile
  • sterile + clean = clean
  • clean is not sterile
  • dirty plus anything = dirty.
In fact, the instructors would always add:  if you're doing a dressing and you turn your back on a sterile field - consider it dirty. Not partially dirty, mind you; plain ole' dirty. That mindset has never left me. I've also worked in Quality Improvement and Quality Assessment departments where we examined processes and outcomes...I actually know words like "efficiency" and "efficacy." You thought I just doodled, I'll bet.


Armed with this knowledge and work history, I can barely stand to get deli meat at a meat counter. Let's examine the lack of logic in the process and lay the groundwork for our fairy tale:

  • The workers wear gloves, but they wear the same gloves all the time. What's wrong with that? They're actually less careful than if they used bare hands. Gloves never feel dirty. True story: I watched a young lady wipe her nose on the edge of the glove and remark: "Yuck...I got some kind of bologna juice on my face." Lord, help us.
  • Somewhere along the way, they've decided to put the machine that weighs the meat on the counter at mouth/nose level with the public. Two words: Airborne transmission. Every Tom, Dick and Harry who lusts after corned beef is breathing and talking over that scale where they weigh out the deli goods. Do they wipe it in between sales? NO!  Why not? Well, that leads us to the next issue...
  • If you ask, the workers will tell you that they don't wipe it down because "they put a clean paper down each time." That makes sense to them. I cringe. You have a dirty surface; actual tiny pieces of meat or cheese (who can tell?) on that silver surface of regret. Laying a piece of paper on that lunch meat latrine of a surface does nothing. Remember your mantra, people: dirty plus anything = dirty.
  • Then comes the catalyst to my irrational irritation: they take that dirty paper, wrap the meat and put in a nice plastic bag for me to carry home. Louis Pasteur turns over in his grave and spits on Joseph Lister...I don't know who died first, but I know they're both gone now and it's good thing. I hate to see a scientist cry.
The magic of the paper is all powerful! Just by standing in the same cavernous market with that magic paper, I am made clean. The scale is clean. All my worries should be gone.

I don't give up easily and I'm willing to compromise, so I started asking the deli counter worker NOT to place that paper in the plastic bag. I'm willing to eat a little glove bacteria (apparently) in pursuit of a ham and cheese sandwich or corned beef on rye. I'm pretty serious about corned beef. These arteries aren't gonna clog themselves, am I right?

About 75% of the time they argue that point with me. They insist they must put that paper from the Typhoid Mary Paper Goods Company in my bag. They're processed meat professionals with a "code." Why do they care? The irrational irritation rises.


One girl actually told me it was against the law not to put the paper in the plastic bag. I swear it's the truth. 

Here's my last bit of magic to add to this fairy tale... 

If you add up the total cost of the items in my hands as I check out (i.e. bread, milk and Premium German listeria loaf with a hint of staph), that total numerical sum will always be higher than the IQ of the person who tries to tell me it is illegal to leave a dirty deli paper out of the plastic bag. It's like a parlor trick; it will work every time.

This is why my Hubzam has homemade soup with soba noodles and vegetables in his lunch.

And they lived happily ever after. The End.

55 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this, Cherdo. I think it's great that you are a nurse. I had a bacterial infection last July and was sick the entire month with it...C Difficile. The doctor sent me for stool tests which confirmed that this was what I had. He had asked me if I had been in, or visited someone in a hospital and I had not. Neither he nor I have a clue as to how I contracted it. Sorry for the long response in my comment, but I thought about this when you were talking about cleanliness, sterile, etc. :)

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    1. The longer the better - I love a good comment. I "retired" from nursing to homeschool my kiddos; now I many devote time to teaching mine and others. It's fun. But I have still have the nurse brain.

      My family still thinks I'm nuts...some days, they're right.

      Take care, Linda! Thanks!

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    2. PS: Most people think C. Difficile >> person to person transmission, but they're starting to associate it with food transmission, too.

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  2. Yup! It's filthy at the deli counter, and everyplace else. I reached across a sterile field once. I was so embarrassed. Nobody yelled at me. I've been exposed to MRSA about a million times. I even know what MRSA stands for. The last time I took a nursing class, which was about ten years ago, the current hand washing standard was three minutes. Doctors come in the room, rinse their hands under the water for about ten seconds, dry their hands, and that's it. Why are we fighting super bugs? Insufficient hand washing, and insufficient cleaning by the housekeeping staff.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. MRSA = Methicillin Resistant Staphlococcus Aureus.

      At one time, that was the worst thing I encountered. Tomorrow, I'll have a super bug cartoon. I'm on a roll.

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    2. I can't wait for your super bug, but please, no palmetto bugs. I had to stomp one last night. I stomped on that sucker so hard I had to scrape him off the floor to flush him down the toilet.

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  3. I work in retail. My coworkers don't seem to understand that the back of the store must be as clean as the front of the store or else the front isn't actually clean at all. Especially when the stock is in the back so we go back and forth dozens to hundreds of times a day. I'm also always on the cases about cleaning the counters and the benches often and always after somebody appears sick.

    Lord help them when that one guy who either had meth or herpes scabs came in, picking at them, and touched fucking everything. We actually had customers moving out of the way so we could clean.

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    1. Let me just say this: I'm not a super crazy germ freak. I'd hug a goat (and have). But people germs are the worst.

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    2. Rachel, you know I love you, but please don't use the eff word on this blog. I shall have to wash out your mouth with soap.Dial, perhaps? Cherdo has students who read her blog.

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  4. Being a longtime vegetarian, I don't buy meat at the counter but regardless, you've hit on so many truths here, and they apply to me, too. Like, if I buy some sliced cheese, or potato salad, or macaroni salad, etc.

    The paper thing has always amazed me, too. People just assume the paper is perfectly clean. And yes, so are the little paper "boxes" that your "Chinese-To-Go" gets put into. PEOPLE! You don't know where that paper and Chinese-Take-Out box has been!

    Of course, worrying about the germs they hold might sometimes be worse than the germs themselves, but let us stop assuming that anything coming out of a carton or plastic shipping bag is really clean. So, like, some paper company in Mexico is making Chinese-Take-Out boxes and shipping them to American restaurants and we're supposed to feel comfortable about that?

    And you're right, it's funny how the deli workers seem to wear the same plastic gloves all day long. OK, they change to new clean dirty plastic gloves maybe 5 times a day (lunch, two breaks, and two bathroom breaks). Never mind that the gloves were made by the Papel Y Plásticos Sucia company in Guadalajara, Mexico, in the first place.

    Best if we not analyze things too carefully. It can only drive us (more) insane.

    ~ D-FensDogG

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    1. I have a "out of sight"= filthy mentality about all that stuff. So we are on the same page, once again.

      I'm shaking off the germ thing for today.

      New comment: I'm surprised you are a vegetarian. Everything about makes me want to grill you a hamburger and a hot dog while classic rock is playing.

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    2. Well, I do like soy dogs and Buck Dharma painting soundscapes with his electric guitar, so we're almost there. :-)

      ~ Stephen

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  5. I worked, yonks ago, in a deli/bakery of a large chain. I will not buy or eat anything from a deli, with the exception of a small local one run by people I know - who just happen to be OCD about cleanliness.

    In the back rooms where no one can see? They are worse than you know.

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    1. See? I'm creeped out without even have input from workers...I may, in fact, be optimistic!

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  6. Good morning, dear Cherdo!

    These are a few of my favorite things:

    * raindrops on roses
    * whiskers on kittens
    * bright copper kettles
    * warm woolen mittens
    * the funk of forty thousand years

    This was one of your best posts ever, great material, and funny because it is based on fact.

    (Excuse me a second. I spilled some clam chowder on my keyboard last night and didn't get it all wiped up with that wet, foul smelling kitchen sink dish rag that I've been using every day since 1983 and never got around to washing. The soup still looks edible and I haven't had breakfast yet, Think I'll just lick it off.)

    (Okay, I'm back, and not feeling all that great.)

    I have witnessed the same kinds of dirty deli deeds:

    * It doesn't inspire confidence when the meat clerk is wearing a Shell No-Pest Strip as a pendant!

    (BA-DUM-BUMP)

    * She dropped my pound of sliced turkey on the floor and shouted "5-second rule!"

    (BA-DUM-BUMP)

    Like you I have found it nearly impossible to get workers at supermarkets, restaurants and retail stores to change the way they do things. They are programmed. Change does not compute. Whatever happened to the slogan "Have it your way"?

    Thank you for a post loaded with smiles and laughs, dear friend Cherdo!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. "The funk of forty thousand years..." That one was a thriller, ha ha. ;-)

      The clam chowder tale made me feel queasy!

      I'm glad you enjoyed this window into my weird phobias. Human germs - check!

      Animals? No problem. If it's dirty, I wash it. My animals were cleaner than some people's children.

      I've had an impressive array of critters in my day and I'm practically a free-lance vet. When you have farm-type animals, you have to be. They have needs and you just don't go to the vet with them every time. It was bad enough when I had to get a health certificate for the herd for shows. I had large dog crates and I've had as many as 8 Nigerians in the back of my van. I'd pull up to a stop light with the window down and watch everyone try to figure out where the noise came from....tee hee. Then I'd make eye contact and say, "Just my kids."

      I had to change topics to quit thinking of the chowder. DANG! Now I'm thinking of it again.

      Be well, dear friend, and have a great Wednesday!

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    2. I tell deli workers, Will you please change your gloves?

      They do, and they never complain. They simply turn their backs to spit in my food.

      WDW believes in the five-second rule, maybe even the ten-second rule.

      I put my dish cloth and towel in the laundry basket each day. Sometimes I put them in twice a day. They must be fresh. I refuse to use something nasty to "clean" my counters. I also use a few paper towels, but I try not to do so because they aren't green. They're white. How am I supposed to go green?

      Bad Cherdo! You keep people from Nigeria in your van? For shame.

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  7. Let's face it, any procedure for cleaning, sanitation, whathaveyou is only as good as the person or persons implementing them and using them allow them to be.

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    1. Oh, I face it, Barbara...I truly face it....ha ha.

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  8. I don't believe I will be buying any meat from the deli ever again. Thank you. I think.

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    1. I feel like a lifeguard who just pulled you out of the riptide (ha ha).

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  9. This past weekend we had to get up super early for a graduation that was 3 hours away. We had time to stop for breakfast and we pulled into a Cracker barrel. The table was wet and had not been dried off when we sat down and when the waitress came, I asked her if she could bring a clean towel to wipe off the table. I KID YOU NOT- she looked behind me at the table where someone had just left and grabbed a wadded up used napkin and wiped our table. I looked over at Todd and said "lets just hope that person didn't have the flu or something who used that". She got tiffy and said i'll go get another towel. We still stayed and ate but I could not believe that happened. Long story- sorry. You sparked something there. haha!

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    1. Even if they were that dirty themselves, you'd think they'd put on their best "clean" act for the customer. Sheesh!!

      I like comments of all sizes - the bigger they are, the bigger my "like." :-)

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  10. It's a lose/lose situation. People want to be clean and protect themselves from germs (good for a hospital). But the lack of exposure to germs has been blamed for the rise in allergy problems we are having right now.

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    1. Stay tuned for the next cartoon...

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  11. Yikes. We probably don't even know what's going on in the kitchen of most restaurants. I do notice at Subway that they take their gloves off and toss them if they have to handle money or touch anything that isn't a sandwich! I'm sure this isn't perfect, as you mentioned--but I haven't yet seen them do anything yucky at the one I went to.

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    1. I agree! I've heard horror stories.

      To be fair, there's always someone out there who is truly doing a good job. We need to pat them on the back.

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  12. I like those rules you were taught in nursing school and will remember them. I've eaten in some places with questionable cleanliness.

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    1. Me, too! I try not to do it TWICE.

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  13. This was interesting, amusing and timely, especially since I've been struggling with a terrible cold (possibly the flu) since returning from vacation.

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    1. I think that vacation was worth any questionable schnitzel. Hope you feel better soon! Loved the Rubens painting, by the way.

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  14. This was very funny and very informative. I can say, when i go to the deli counter, they change their plastic gloves after every handling! I am impressed. They do not use the same machine for meat and cheese-good. OK that's it. They do have the machines at mouth level or just about and they do use that plastic paper. What kills me is when they argue with you and try to make it sound like it is national law just because they don;t want to do it differently. Very sad indeed

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    1. "It's against the law" nearly made my head pop off. Like my son says, it makes me irrationally angry, ha ha.

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  15. Honestly, I don't buy things at the deli all that often. Not sure that I ever will again. I'm just so grossed out.

    Thank you for this information (I think). I'd be happier if I could actually DO something about it, but I think cringing is all that's left to me.

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    1. I don't buy that much processed meat but I wish they'd just put better stuff in the pre-packaged area so I don't see that the deli folks do.

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  16. A very interesting post- and now we know why we'd never be compatible, lol! Our version of the five-second rule is, "Who gets to it first, me or Scrappy?"

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    1. Ah, man...I was gonna invite you to the campout...

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    2. Just don't have me cook, it's all good.

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  17. Death at the Deli Counter - A not-so-mysterious mystery by Cherdo

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    1. Read more bologna by Cherdo - coming this Fall.

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  18. Oh, my....you are on a roll on the deli counter. I'm more freaked out by the pickles, olives and other items that are sitting in the open carts at the grocery store. I have never bought anything from them and can't imagine the possibilities of not only germs, but of bacteria accumulating. I don't worry too much about germs, however, because I do think we have gone to extremes in some cases. I remember stories about the guys who worked at a fast food chain who peed in the pickle barrels.

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    1. In general, I don't worry about them EXCEPT in these cases where there's humans with bad hygiene practices and I'm looking right at them.

      Having had sons work in fast food while in high school, I've heard the horror stories.

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  19. Oh my god. I've never thought about this! Now I'm totally grossed out about deli meat! D:

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    1. Madilyn, all I wanted was for someone else to be horrified with me, ha ha. Thank you. My work is done.

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  20. My ocd stays far far away from any Deli scat, sooo nasty to the cat.

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    1. When you're not willing to give it to a pet, then you know you're taking it seriously. Especially a pet who used a litter box, right?

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  21. I've seen people touch their arms and faces with gloved hands. It makes me shudder. I appreciate it when they change their gloves often. I don't go to the deli often, but this makes me wonder about food preparation in general. If they do this in front of you, who knows what goes on in the back.

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    1. You and me, both, sister! I have to fight the urge to let my brain run with this one.

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  22. Yikes! What about the paper on my doctor's examination table? Never had these thoughts before reading your very enjoyable --and informative-- post.

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    1. The doc has a nice nurse that will dispose of the paper between visits. That one is pretty much a given - you can tell if someone has sat on it, after all.

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  23. I am so very, very glad that I had swallowed and set my glass of (dry rose' ) wine to one side before reading your remark on wearing the same pair of gloves all day. In return I will post a link that proves that you were around in the 1700's. Same expression...

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b6/Philipp_Friedrich_Hetsch_Portrait_Caroline_Scheffauer_c1792-1794.jpg/471px-Philipp_Friedrich_Hetsch_Portrait_Caroline_Scheffauer_c1792-1794.jpg

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    1. Ha ha ha - you're right! Side view, semi-smirk, V-neck (I wear the V often), loose fitting clothes and messy hair. Yup, that might be a relation! You rarely see a portrait from that era that shows a smile plus teeth. Nice!

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    2. She looked like a good one to sit and have an enjoyable chat with. Definitely unusual style and execution.

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  24. I worked at a hospital (back in the stone age) at the lab and took blood tests.
    Also was the one who was sent in on the drunk driver clean draws no alcohol wipes,
    and went into contagious rooms. Clean and sterile was the mantra.
    If I do buy deli meats if I don't see them put new gloves on I ask. Plus I despise the paper thing to.
    If I do buy anything from the already packeaged counter, when I get home I transfer it to a clean bag. Have you seen the people touch the bags till the find the one they want.
    But here is the best one yet...
    I wash all the fruit and veggie that comes from Mexico. Watermelons, cantaloupe, tomatoes, oranges anything because 10 to 1 it has fecal matter and cocaine on it. I live in a border city you would not believe what is on your food.
    Wash, wash, wash !
    Whooping cough is an epidemic here also on the rise measles, mumps, chickenpox, hepatitis rotavirus so on so forth.
    Wash !

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. I was aware of the "fertilizer" on the fruits and veggies - I assume they're all getting a dose of one kind of manure or another. But cocaine? YOW. It never occurred to me!

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Thanks for your personal yada, yada, yada,
Love, Cherdo