I find myself taking a lot of cabs these days. Yes, it’s an expensive habit, but most of the buses in San Francisco are spaced so far apart that by the time one comes by, its packed. However, that’s not even the issue. Even when the bus is not packed, there is often a homeless/drunk person on it who smells horribly and often is talking to themselves. It’s nice that the city gives out bus passes to the poor, but this is too close for comfort. Between the homeless, the incontinent elderly, a majority of the immigrant Chinese people who always seem to be coughing (I swear they must have a genetic predisposition to respiratory problems), the occasional person who actually spits on the bus and all the people sneezing and wiping their noses, San Francisco has made me into a germaphobe.
In order to avoid this, I started walking or taking cabs. Not that cabs are clean, but there are fewer people in them than buses so I figure the odds are better for a healthy exit. Besides, whether I take a bus or cab, when I get home I douse my hands in 70%+ isopropyl alcohol. Alcohol only kills the bacteria though, not the viruses, so I also wash my hands thoroughly. At Dr. Oz’s advice, I also put the alcohol on a paper towel and wipe down my cell phone. First though, I take my shoes off in the entryway of my apartment and take off my pants and put on shorts in the apartment so as to compartmentalize the filth I may have walked through or sat on. Could you imagine what a city apartment would be like after walking through and sitting in spit, mucus, urine and feces which is all over the city streets, sidewalks and bus seats? Am I overdoing it? No. Besides the poor and infirm, San Francisco is expensive and many people stress out or give up and then turn to alcohol or drug abuse. SF has some pretty views but it’s not as glamorous as people think.
So no one is allowed to wear shoes in my apartment. Believe me, my mom had a hard time with that rule. She spent her whole life in the suburbs and never heard of such a thing. Some of my friends tell me I am taking the cleanliness thing too far. I say that after all the organic chemistry, biochemistry and pharmacy classes I took in college, combined with all the stuff I see people doing in public (and I wish I could forget), you are crazy if you wear shoes in your homes here and turning a blind eye if you don’t wash your hands thoroughly when getting home in San Francisco. One time on the bus in SF, I actually saw blood on a few bus seats, the floor and a few hand rails. I told the bus driver who didn’t care and then I called San Francisco’s bus department who they told me they would wait for the bus to be turned in (in five hours) for them to clean it. Yes, I am serious.
Am I taking it too far? Imagine this scenario. It’s the end of the day and you are going home. Maybe the cute, well dressed person next to you was just in their office on the computer. We have all heard, over and over, how computers are the filthiest places out there. So the cutie pie turns off the computer, goes to the restroom and heads home. Do most people wash their hands after using the facilities? Not even close. Studies found it’s a very low number and not income or class related. So they go outside and the wind rustles a few hairs so they scratch. This of course gets their skin cells and maybe a little blood under their fingernails and on their hands. They might wipe or rub their nose also due to the wind or maybe because it began to run thanks to the change in humidity or temperature. A few minutes later, this nicely dressed person is talking to you and you like them or at least think they are clean as they dress well and seem from a nice neighborhood. They introduce themselves and you two customarily shake hands. After everything in this paragraph, what did they just transfer to you? Then a few minutes later, the wind blows and you run your fingers through your hair or rub your nose.
OK, ask yourself a few questions. Whose hands just grabbed that bus or train hand rail before you? Is it still warm? Do you check the seat on the bus or train before sitting in it? Do you realize how many people get perspiration (or worse) on bus seats? Who’s pocket was that dollar bill in before you got it as change? Maybe it was it a donation for the homeless person who just relieved themselves in the alley and then walked into a store and bought something just before you walked in? Maybe you drive to work and park in a lot; what has the valet been doing all day who handles your keys and drives your car when they arrange the cars in the lot all day? Is that pile on the sidewalk from a dog? Are you sure it’s from a dog? I have seen the deposits in action (in nice parts of town too). Do you think those dried water streaks on the sidewalk are form someone spilling their coffee? And then you are going to walk into your home and track it around? As for all the earthy crunchy people that I see trying to be one with nature while sitting in the grass in city parks, don’t even get me started.
OCD? Maybe, although this article from the Harvard Medical School makes me think not (http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-do-you-know-if-you-have-obsessive-compulsive-disorder-201108023210) because it doesnt prevent me from going out, riding the occasional bus, etc. I just clean up when I get home. If that is OCD, then washing your hands before eating is also OCD. Remember your parents telling you to wash your hands before dinner? Whatever the case, I act like this because I am aware. It’s as if I am in The Matrix and I just swallowed the red pill and I can’t go back. I should probably move to the suburbs, but in the meantime, I see that knowing whats out there and cleaning up after exposure like going to the doctor; would you rather know what you have or pretend it’s nothing even though the disease will grow and fester until you have a serious problem? There is a lot of funky stuff on the bus and in the city. I prefer to wash it off when I get home. The final question is, after reading this article, are you now aware?