I have a lot of phobias.
This is the fear of tornadoes that kill cows.
Or anything that kills cows, including but not limited to machetes, meteors and McDonald’s.
This is the fear of carpet burn.
This is the fear of germs. You should know this one.
I’m terrified of germs, specifically food-borne pathogens. E-Coli, Trichinosis, Salmonella. Dirty bastards like that. This stems from the fact that my daughter contracted Salmonella when she was only six weeks old.
How my sweet little darling contracted Salmonella is one of my life’s biggest mysteries. I certainly wasn’t putting chicken juice in her Dr. Browne bottle. It was a horrifying and terrifying ordeal because a serious ass illness like Salmonella is some serious ass business when it comes to infants. I’m serious.
It’s been seven years since we dealt with the rabid Salmonella beast and it’s blood-riddled diarrhea, but I’m still terrified of germs.
I sanitize everything.
I use Clorox wipes on counters, sinks, drawer handles, light switches, door knobs, debit cards, phones, remotes, steering wheels, hand sanitizer bottles and even the Clorox wipe container itself.
Keeping that in mind, the following story is true. And terrifying.
I was in a super good mood when I entered the grocery store this morning. My son was at Mother’s Day Out. This means one thing. I can get all of my shopping done hassle-free. No tantrums over graham crackers. No clean ups on aisles two, three, four, five, six, seven….
I was also in a good mood because I looked half awesome half amazing today. My hair smelled of citrus and shined like my dashboard after an Armor All wipe down. I was also dressed nicely. No hoodies or my ragged Tom’s with a toe-worn hole. I had on full makeup. Not just a little powder to hide that hideous sun spot on my cheek. No, I put on all 213 steps, including eyeliner.
I looked good. I felt good. And I whistled as I thumped the out of season melons in produce.
I was in a great mood. It was going to be a phenomenal shopping trip.
Chicken. I’m going to make Parmesan chicken tonight. I need chicken, I thought.
When I come in contact with raw meat at the grocery store, I don’t actually touch the package with my bare hands. I use those baggies from produce to reach for the meat. And then I carefully, without actually touching it with my hands, put the dead animal in the baggy.
I know that the meat is already packaged, but the packaging must be riddled with germs. I’m certain the butcher doesn’t sanitize the cellophane after getting raw chicken juice all over it.
After putting the packaged raw meat in a produce baggy (or two), I sequester it from the other items in the cart. I don’t want raw meat touching my son’s Pull Ups.
I’m not even sure if that’s how you spell baggy. And baggy is a dumb word.
So, I’m reaching for the chicken, and the produce bag slipped from my hand.
And juices fell. Chicken juices squirted from the package onto my clean hand.
I almost fainted.
I stared at the pinkish liquid on my palm, and I took thirty three deep breaths, which is the equivalent to hyperventilating. Then I threw the package of chicken back onto the meat counter. I ignored the weakness in my legs, and I wobbled to my shopping cart. I used my clean hand to search through my purse for hand sanitizer.
I squeezed 4-7 ounces of alcohol into my hands and furiously scrubbed. Then I did it again. And again. And two more dollops for good measure.
Still, I was not convinced that the hand sanitizer had killed all of the chicken bacteria. Maybe 99 percent, but not all 100 percent. I mean, it says it right there on the bottle that it only kills 99.9 percent of germs. Those aren’t odds that I want to fool around with.
Since 100 percent of the Salmonella hadn’t been killed on my hands, the disease had transferred from my hand to the shopping cart. And my pen. And my grocery list. And the microorganisms would be transferred to all of the other foodstuffs that I touched on the remainder of the grocery trip.
My first instinct was to abort the mission. I would run, screaming, from the store, sans the food. We would starve at dinner tonight. There was no other way.
But I calmly and rationally rethought the situation. I had to press on. They are serving garbage at the elementary school tomorrow. My daughter has to take her lunch, and she can’t take stale wheat thins and that lone fish stick on the freezer floor. I had to buy food for her lunch. I had to continue the trip.
I scurried down the cleaning aisle, and I found the Lysol wipes. I couldn’t steal Lysol wipes right there in the grocery store. I would be caught on camera. I’d go to jail. I couldn’t do it.
On the other hand, literally on the other hand, Salmonella was brewing. I had chicken juice all over my other hand. I would shit my pants and be hospitalized at any moment.
I may or may not have grabbed one Lysol wipe. Just one.
My nerves were shot to hell as I reached for the milk. Oh, the milk. The milk that my children touch on an hourly basis. And the yogurt cups. And the cheese. I couldn’t stand it.
I checked out, knowing that the chicken juice germs were now on my billfold and my debit card and everything else in my purse.
I raced to the car for a disinfecting wipe. The container was lying empty on the floorboard. I raised my hands to the sky and screamed. What did I do to deserve this?
I frantically drove home, noting that my hands had touched the steering wheel, blinker, gear shift, seat belt, and the console of my car. I never touched the radio. I couldn’t let Salmonella come in contact with the radio knobs. Or the air conditioner. So I sweat like a cat in heat and listened to the damn Bee Gees the entire ride home.
I sped up the driveway and screeched to a halt. I left the ignition running, the door open, and I raced inside for the comfort of Clorox. It took nearly fifteen minutes, but I scrubbed the entire car. Twice.
I brought the groceries inside, and after running a wipe over every item that I bought, including Cream of Mushroom soup and a loaf of bread, I cleaned the entire kitchen. I also mopped the floor because I was certain that I had stepped in the death juice at some point.
Then I scrubbed my hands until they bled.
Needless to say, we are not having Parmesan chicken tonight.
Don’t judge me.
At least my bread is clean.