Monday, July 2, 2007

Germophobia strikes hard during long layovers

By Karrie McAllister

Germophobe: N. A person absolutely terrified of germs; someone suffering from the disorder Germophobia. There is no known cure for Germophobia, but symptoms can be treated with travel sized bottles of hand sanitizer, wet wipes, and the general avoidance of public restrooms.
My name is Karrie, and I am a Germophobe.
I wasn’t always a Germophobe. I used to have no fear when a piece of food fell onto a picnic table at the park, or when I pushing the shopping cart at a big, busy store. It wasn’t until I had children that I began to realize the amazing amount of germs that linger in our world—good germs, bad germs, and just plain curl-your-lip disgusting germs.
I try to keep it under control, and to not scare my children, but when I see my children putting their lips right against the water fountain, my stomach turns inside out and I run screaming for the soap.
After much consideration, I am fully convinced that the heart of my germophobic problems stem from my general fear and repulsion of public restrooms. I believe it all started in my youth, when at the age of only four or five I locked myself in the bathroom at our local Big Wheel. Unable to disable the lock, my mother had no choice but to tell me to crawl out of the stall, sliding along the filthy bathroom floor. I do believe I was scarred for life.
It is for this reason that I now avoid public restrooms at all cost. I would rather my bladder swell up to the size of a basketball than to use a bathroom at a gas station. It is a well-known fact that gas station bathrooms are the dirtiest and most foul places on earth, only surpassed by the gas station bathrooms that are only accessed by a key tied onto a cement block and are located “out back.”
The second worst restrooms I have encountered appear in areas of public transportation, including (in descending order) bus stations, train stations, and airports. I don’t spend much time in bus stations, but airport bathrooms are now among my least favorite places of all time.
I fully believe that airports were not designed for the large number of travelers we see these days. With the amount of flights that are moved through airports, some passengers undoubtedly experience long layovers and delays, while others need to run the 400 meter dash to catch their next flight. For those racing travelers, the bathroom stops are fast and sloppy. They don’t have time to worry about the wad of paper they left on the floor or the water they splashed all over the counter.
But for those of us with the long layovers, we are stuck dealing with the consequences of the fast traveler. Being stranded at an airport for any length of time, there is really not much to do. You sit, you read, and when you get bored, you inevitably get something to drink. And as we all know, the more you drink, the more you go. Even someone with a bladder of steel can’t sit through a four-hour layover without visiting the bathroom at least twice.
After waiting in line with the other people who have been to the Starbucks counter more than once to feed our habits, I contemplate my coffee. Is the cup of joe that will get me through the next hour worth the unavoidable trip to the restroom, where I know that I’ll stand in line, have to hold my nose, and lean against a water laden counter?
For me, this is a tough question to answer. Sure, I’ll enjoy that cup of coffee, but there’s always a chance I’ll get locked in the stall and relive the nightmare that was Big Wheel in the early 1980s.
And for a Germophobe like me, no amount of hand sanitizer can make that nightmare go away.

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