THE BLOG

America Goes Germ Crazy

07/20/2012 10:55 am ET | Updated Sep 19, 2012

When I was a kid Howard Hughes was the richest man in the world. Hughes was rarely seen and elusive. In the pre-YouTube world, people could literally vanish. Like Nazi war criminals and Howard Hughes. Hughes sailed around on yachts and lived on top floors of hotels he owned in the Bahamas. He was "Rumored" to be here, and "Believed" to be there. Hughes, we were told, was wildly eccentric. He sat around naked all day, on the phone, working business deals, and he was insanely germ phobic. He didn't shake hands or touch people, and anything he touched had to be sterile. In other words, by modern standards, Howard Hughes was slightly less germ obsessed that the average American.

It's freakin' ridiculous -- at my gym, before a session on a treadmill, for example, probably half the people I see, remove a spray bottle of cleaner from a nearby shelf, and a fistful of paper towel and wipe the thing down, like it's contaminated by nuclear waste. Then, when they're finished they do it all over again. Don't get me wrong, I make a half-assed dab at my machine with my gym towel when I get off it, but gimme a break!

When did America become Anal World? Listen, most of the stuff that's going to kill you is airborne; like the flu virus, and bullets.

Now you see Moms forcing their kids to use hand sanitizer every fifteen seconds, because God forbid little Trevor should have a single germ on his body! Thank God kids don't go outside to play anymore, that could be deadly. Imagine how much hand sanitizer it would take to climb a tree.

Who knows where this is coming from? Perhaps a little bit of residual 9/11, anthrax hysteria, maybe the Tylenol tampering deaths years ago have something to do with it. In a world in which so much is out of our control, at least people can feel like they're being safe by "sanitizing" their environment. After all, we live in an age in which millions of people have given up having sex with another human being, in favor of "cyber sex." then, boom, your computer gets a virus!

I think what bothers me the most about this recent germ obsession is that so much of it is monkey see monkey do. We didn't use to be like this. Hell, people use to smoke at the gym! No, this, like everyone having earphones at the gym, is simply peer pressure. "What, that girl is wiping down everything with solvent?... so shall I!"

The herd mentality, I hate it! Lets all get a tattoo, iPhone, puppy, latte, high-colonic, botox injection, Twitter account, $20 cupcake, (add your own funny item here.)

You gotta draw the line somewhere. I will never wear my pants halfway down my ass, and I will never turn into a freelance janitor at the gym; I don't care what the heard is doing. And I can't wait for someone to say something like, "Excuse me, Sir, don't you think you should do a better job of wiping down that stationary bike?" and I'll be all, "Wipe down this!"

And then, in a few minutes, an employee will approach me with some forms to sign and before long I'm on the phone with Gilbert and Montlick.

Some days go better than others.

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