Friday, June 26, 2009


How do you non-germaphobes see the world? Do you touch PIN pads then lasciviously lick your fingers? Yeck! I am prompted, “Please use the PIN pad device below,” and I nearly die. Think of all those grubby, nasty, un-washed fingers that have danced there before you. Just seconds before you were there, someone wiped their nose and touched the PIN pad, and now here you are, typing that little number on the PIN pad with your innocent little digits, while germs wait to attack you.

Elevator buttons? I’ve gotten pretty good at those—I jab with my knuckles. I used to jab with my elbows, but it became too random, stabbing at those little dots with parts of the body that aren’t supposed to be wielded with dexterity. Knuckles. Matthew once looked at me as I jabbed the up arrow with my right knuckle and said, “Really? It’s gotten that bad? Knuckles?”

Yes, knuckles! I have never seen a cleaning staff disinfect door handles or elevator buttons.

O! And the door handles! At work, I cross myself, say a prayer, turn in a circle three times, and just grab like nothing is wrong. If only my office mate knew the horror I cringed every time I had to touch her office door knob. Not that it’s her, but that it’s all the co-workers, all the staff, all the students—they’re all touching the doorknob with boogery fingers.

At my last job, archiving at the newspaper, I would work the Sunday shift by myself. My ritual was to arrive ten minutes late, go to Starbucks for something insanely decadent involving white chocolate or caramel, and then use Clorox wipes on every surface in the office.

I started wiping my keyboard, my mouse, and my phone. Next I made my way over to the office door and scrubbed the handle from the interior and the exterior. The refrigerator doors got a go-over, and, if I were feeling really crazy, the cupboard doors that hid the fridge got a good bleaching too.

Last to get bleached were my co-workers. My lovely co-workers. I had nothing against them, but computer keyboards are like the second most contaminated surface after toilet bowl handles (we won’t go on the subject of toilets and aerosol fecal spray--we just won’t). So here were my co-workers, Chicago, winter, flu season, sneezing and typing in their own stew of germs and they didn’t even know it.

On a light day I’d just use some Lysol and spray down all their keyboards and phones. On a “Christine’s nuttier than usual” day I also Clorox wiped all of their work stations. Thoroughly. I like to think that I was doing them this special favor that they didn’t even know about. Like I was the germaphobe’s Clark Kent, weirdo newspaper girl by weekday shift, germ warfare nuclear committee on weekends. Every Monday, they’d return, grumbling about The Mondays, but, I knew, I knew I did them a huge favor and they were returning to sanitized desks, delivered via yours truly.

I have actually spoken to more than one clinician about this. They all agree that while my germaphobia may be exaggerated, I’m actually not OCD. Isn’t that comforting? I’m a mild form of nutters, not full-fledged therapeutic-like.

OK, now a big secret that’s not a secret anymore because I’m telling you: I hate sharing computers with my husband. He’s not a germaphobe. He could have touched nearly anything and been perfectly OK with it. He could have touched the garbage can, not washed his hands, and then touched the keyboard! Yeep! I deal with it, OK, I’m not crazy. I suck it up and pretend like it’s OK and deal with it—then every few days I do a sweep of the house and Clorox wipe all the computers.

Here’s the worst part: my neuroses don’t transfer to any useful hang-up. Touching a bus railing gives me cold chills, but looking at dog hair on my floor that really ought to be vacuumed doesn’t faze me at all. Why would that be? If something directly impacts my distorted sense of safety, I am god-awful uptight. I have Selective Narcissistic Neuroses Disorder.

I have to go wash my hands now. I touched the keyboard AND the mouse.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Eating at my heart

Cravings are curious, unpredictable things.

When I moved to Chicago in 1998, I was shocked at the number of hot dog stands. Everything from one window booths to large sit down restaurants committed to the peddling of hot dog cuisine could be found anywhere in the city, no matter the neighborhood. Weird. I can’t think of any culinary predilection in my home of Louisville, Kentucky like hot dogs were in Chicago.

I resisted the hot dog ubiquity, but, caving in to the expediency of the dog, I tried one of Chicago’s venerable hot dog institutions, Demon Dogs. It was directly under the Red Line train across the street from DePaul University where I was a student. Desperate for protein, I gave it a shot.

First, Demon Dogs was one of those “Chicago guys” kinda places—you have to say that with the rough Chicago accent to make sense. Demon Dogs spoke a different language than I do, and the entire operation moved through order, prep, and sale so quickly that I had no idea what to do. There was no dawdling in line. You stepped up, stated your hot dog mission, paid, and received it—no nonsense allowed.

Despite my minor panic attack at the foreign wiener experience, I managed to pull it off. Over to one of the stand-up tables, the kind that should have had bar stools but didn’t. First bite of my first Chicago dog: “snap.” What the hell was that? Freaky feeling in my mouth. OK. I can do this. I can order and eat a Chicago hotdog. “Snap.” What the fuck?

I felt ill. My dog had a texture unlike any I’d ever experienced. I ate it, because, like I said, I was pretty hungry, but believe me when I tell you I did not enjoy it.

I went home and described my Demon Dog to Matthew, “And then, when I took a bite, it snapped!”

“That’s just the natural skin casing.”

“The what?” I asked, totally grossed out by this conversation and getting queasy to think of what I’d eaten.

“Chicago dogs are made with a natural skin casing unlike hot dogs you get from the grocery store.”

Natural. Skin. Casing. That means ... intestines! Oh my god. Demon Dogs put me off the whole Chicago dog experience for quite a while.

My first job in Chicago I worked in a chintzy mall store full of second rate shops and scary food. Hungry and desperate again, I went for the Chicago dog. I braced myself, “Snap.” What was it with natural skin casing?

The mall dog broke some sort of barrier for me, though. Yeah, Chicago hot dogs snapped at you, but maybe they weren’t so horrible after all. After the mall dog, I became more experimental. I’d end up trying lots of different hot dog stands, and, eventually I learned to love the snap of a natural skin casing.

From disgust to adoration, me and the dog. I’m typing this from Florida, far, far away from the Windy City dog. And I’m craving. I’d give anything for a natural skin casing dog right now. Cravings are curious, unpredictable things.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Facebook's alternate reality

I’ve blogged a little about it before, but Facebook is doing straaange things to my head.

One: I have learned that I am a Negative Nelly. I look back and remember all the reasons relationships with Facebook’s ghosts of the past didn’t work. They’ve contacted me and told me all the wonderful things they missed about friendship with me. [Insert eerie noise of brain doing flip-flop here.] Hold up. There’s a different perspective?

OK, there being different perspectives is going to seem acutely obvious to people with more evolved brains than mine (most of you), but coming from an apparently self-centered person, this is huge. The world doesn’t exist solely as I see it.

Result of FB Lesson One? I have forgiven some of the hurt that signaled the end of former relationships. I have mentally salvaged the good bits, dusted them off and said, “Yeah, this is worth holding on to.” Channels of communication are re-opened and I’m feeling the love again.

Two: There are people I thought were friends who I may have to de-friend in the real world. A woman I singularly admired as the coolest, awesomest girl I knew keeps company with total flakes. It’s harsh to judge people by lame, isolated computer-generated quips, but the digital company she keeps speaks volumes about her. She gets eighteen comments for everything that she posts and they all say, “Love you!” “You are so cool!” “Rad!”

FB isn’t a digital collective of genius conversation, but all of her friends are so inane. Why would she keep the company of so many sycophantic nabobs who can never string together a more coherent sentence than “Your [classy, elegant party] ruled! Yeah!” And all eighteen of the other respondents said the same thing. What digital “friends” universally declare incoherently that this major, beautiful milestone in your life “ruled”? Unsavory. Sorry friends, you’re judged by the company you keep, and your company says “tacky” all over it.

Maybe that’s the Negative Nelly and I should assume that some people have trouble communicating via computer, but, um, that many of them? I’m going to have to go back to Lesson One and remember the good conversations I’ve had tete-a-tete with this woman and hold onto what I believe about her intelligence. Who knows why we have the friends we have, I guess, I just wish that hers reflected her better nature.
Facebook, you blow my mind. I don’t know how, I don’t know why, but Facebook is reconstructing my world view.