March 7, 2013 by bellabettina79
Yesterday I was enjoying a peaceful day working from home, curled up in front of the fireplace, when I got a very disturbing piece of information. The kind of information that makes one question humanity; that makes one ask whether we should start a stockpile in the basement and begin a life of seclusion; that brings up more questions than it answers. The kind of information that makes one feel so incredibly violated that the entire rest of the day is ruined.
“Hey, did you know Brian is sitting at your desk today while you’re gone?”
That instant message was the beginning of a very long string of jumbled “whys” and “what ifs” that bounced around in my head for hours. Why is he there? What’s wrong with his desk? Is he a creeper? Did he shower today? What’s wrong with his desk? Does he have any kind of contagious disease that can still be lingering on my keyboard tomorrow when I get back? What’s wrong with his freaking desk? Is this something I can report to Human Resources as encroachment,like in football? Oh, and WHAT IS WRONG WITH HIS DESK???
Obviously, I am a germaphobe. I have no idea when it started, but it’s a very serious problem that has an ability at times to suck the enjoyment out of my life with its overbearing (yet properly sanitized) tentacles. Thinking back to my life before my germaphobia started, I was a free-spirited, reckless, haphazard, ball of risk. OMG I used to eat dinner without washing my hands or using hand sanitizer! I still played by the 5 Second Rule when food dropped on the floor! I wouldn’t think anything of using yesterday’s washcloth for today’s shower! And *gulp* I might have even eaten a sandwich after just shaking hands with a person! It’s a wonder I never died of cholera or the Spanish Flu by living such a lackadaisical life.
It’s a lot like Sheldon Cooper’s fear for instantaneous contraction of whatever illness is within a 50-mile radius of the air he breathes.
I can understand his struggle, because reading a friend’s status on Facebook about having the stomach bug has me wondering if I’ve somehow been exposed to, and/or contracted, the virus. (Don’t pretend you haven’t felt the same tickle in your intestines when you see it in your News Feed, I know I’m not the only one!!) I read that “booo, I have the flu!!” status, and I’m all “GET OFF MY NEWS FEED BEFORE I CATCH IT!!”
A few weeks ago, as I was heading home from work, I ran into a co-worker by the front door whom I hadn’t seen for several months. The innocence of asking “Hey, where have you been?” led to a wave of sheer terror a few seconds later when he replied. He proceeded to tell me all about how he’d been ill with some kind of virus for several weeks, but had been feeling much better lately. When he held his hand out to shake mine as we said our goodbyes, I contemplated running away screaming “Contamination!! Contamination!!” yet I felt that might put a damper on his upswing in health in recent days. I obliged, but then I realized there was no possible way I could go an entire car ride home without touching my eyes, nose, face, or ears, which are fabulous entryways for viruses to take over my body and commence eating away at my insides and causing violent illness. I imagined the ride home, where an innocent scratching of my nose would lead to immediate melting of my inner organs and the virus’s damage would begin oozing out of my eyeballs and all over my lap. In order to avoid grossing out the other commuters on I-270, I didn’t wait until I’d even left the room before taking out my hand sanitizer and scrubbing my hands like I’d just cleaned a sewer! Really, it was just a public service. No one wants to see oozing bodies on their ride home after a tough day in the office.
While I have my vices, part of my sickness is not just my own hygiene, but the hygiene of others. I would like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but I cannot trust that others take handwashing and elbow-sneezing seriously. How many times have you been in a public restroom and heard someone leave the stall, only to walk right out the door without washing their hands? Now think of every single handle/doorknob/microwave button/coffee pot/keyboard/pen/desk drawer that hand touches for the rest of the day…EWWWW.
Sometimes these handwashing nay-sayers look like very clean people, so despite my desk-borrowing colleague’s outward stellar appearance, I hesitate to grant him (or anyone) the stamp of cleanliness approval without further investigation of daily routine.
I’m a very accommodating person, but I do like my personal space. My desk isn’t a public park bench, and I’m kinda freaking out that someone else used it merely because of a heavy snowfall that made me unable to get to the office yesterday. It makes me wonder, does he sit behind me every day, shooting daggars with his eyes, silently wishing for my early demise so he can stand atop my office chair in a Captain Morgan pose and declare “At last!! It is mine!!” Really, I’d sacrifice my desk to him if it means getting a desk no one else will annex when we see the next blizzard.
While I’m sure this person has nothing at all wrong, and no ill will, when I got the news he was using my desk yesterday, I couldn’t stop all the thoughts from running through my head about how many new germs would be introduced to my immediate surroundings during the 8-or-so hours he would be sitting there. The first thing I did this morning when I got to work was to sanitize my keyboard and mouse. If I had access to all my cleaning supplies at home, I’d be taking my computer apart at the seams, scrubbing every nook and cranny, wiping down the desk with bleach, and Lysoling the ever-living shit out of my chair. Who knows, maybe he’s got a sense of humor and wanted to leave a strategically-placed boogie in an area that cannot be seen by the naked eye. However, I would like my employer to think I am semi-normal, so I would probably have to do the deep-clean after hours.
After the anxiety settles, the question of why he was sitting at my desk is going to bother me more than that moment when I see the most incredible meme that I cannot share because it has a grammatical error. I hate when that happens.