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!"
- 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.
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.