March 6-Weird Wednesday

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As you may have gathered already, I have a slight case of OCD. Not anything too major – I’m not a super neat freak and I don’t have to turn light off and on in multiples of 3 whenever I leave a room – but it’s bad enough to attract some strange looks from people. My OCD breaks down into two main categories: hand-washing and symmetry. I’ll deal with hand-washing this week and symmetry next week, so stay tuned.

Like I said, I’m not a neat freak by any stretch of the imagination. I like things to be clean, the dishes done and the carpet vacuumed and the house decorated nicely, I just don’t like to do those things myself. I’ll do those things, I don’t expect my wife to clean up after me though she often does even though it bugs the crap out of her I love you sweetie-kins, but my hatred for cleaning usually overrides my love of cleanliness in the house. However, I’m not that lenient when it comes to my hands. I am a hand-washing fanatic! Whenever I’ve worked in restaurants, which has been most of my life, a good portion of my time has been spent washing my hands over doing almost anything else. You, the customer, might think that’s a great thing, and it usually is. But when you see your dinner come up in the passover and me walk right by it to wash my hands before I bring it to you, every second I spend out of your sight will seem like an eternity where you’re doomed to limp vegetables and lukewarm chicken. Usually the first thing people notice about me when I start work in a new kitchen is my hand-washing fanaticism. No one ever has to go looking for me; they’ll just go straight to the sink. (The second thing they notice is my muttonchops.)

Again, most of the time this particular obsession is advantageous, but there are times when it’s caused major problems for me. My wife and I were out of town for our anniversary a few years back and on our way home we stopped for gas and to use the restroom, like you do. Now whenever I use a public restroom, I always analyze the situation and come up with an exit strategy to minimize my recontamination after I wash my hands. Does the door open in or out? Do they have hand dryers or paper towels? Are the faucets automatic or manual? Is it a push-and-pull door with no handle? If there is there a handle, is it just a doorknob? All these factors contribute to how I’m going to get out of there. The idea situation is to have a faucet on the sink that’s either automatic or with twisting, elongated handles. That way I can turn it on with my hand, but turn it off with my elbow so as to now recontaminate my now-clean hands with gas station poo germs. The door situation can vary widely. If it’s a push-and-pull door with no handles, as long as the door opens out I can just open it by walking backwards with my hands up like a surgeon. If there’s a handle, it should still open out so I can use my elbow to open it, but if it opens in the bathroom HAS TO HAVE PAPER TOWELS!!!  That way I can wash my hands, dry them off, then use the paper towels to open the door and throw them away on my way out. In any case, I can usually devise a strategy that doesn’t involve me waiting for someone else to come in to use the bathroom and me sneaking out before the door swings shut again (I’ve actually done that).

I said all that to say this: this particular bathroom was the perfect storm of disgusting, and was designed to infect me with a pestilence yet unknown to humankind. The bathroom itself was your standard, one-person gas station bathroom, which in itself is putrid beyond belief. The real problem came after I washed my hands. This bathroom didn’t have a hand dryer; it didn’t have paper towels. It had that never-ending, always damp, infinite loop of cloth where your hands end up dirtier and wetter than they did when you started. This is my nightmare. I decided right away that I needed to dry my hands on my pants – that’s why you wear pants in the first place – but I still couldn’t figure out how to get out of the bathroom itself. The door opened in and had a round handle, which is the worst possible configuration for a germaphobe. I tried opening the door with my hand in my pocket (again, a great use for pants), I tried turning the handle with my foot and hopping backwards, I even tried squeezing the doorknob between my forearms and twisting them in opposite directions while walking backwards to simultaneously turn the handle and open the door. Alas, all was for naught. After a much longer time than I should have spent trying to MacGuyver my way out of this, I finally decided to just buck up, open the door with my hand LIKE A SANE PERSON, buy some hand sanitizer on my way out, then use the entire contents in the parking lot on my way back to the car.

I know that sounds crazy, but it’s actually not so bad. I can suppress by germaphobia to some degree and not let it rule me, but it does make me very aware of potential disease and cross-contamination. Lucky for you, though, if I ever cook for you you can rest assured my hands are clean enough to perform surgery.

”I see germs.”

”Where?”

”Everywhere. All the time.”

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