Ana Veciana-Suarez

A simple Google search turned me into a germophobe

Ana Veciana-Suarez: 'I’m so grossed out that I’m afraid to touch anything around the house, afraid that some science fiction nightmare might unfold right there in my kitchen or bathroom: an epidemic of flesh-eating, brain-dissolving, limb-paralyzing organisms.'
Ana Veciana-Suarez: 'I’m so grossed out that I’m afraid to touch anything around the house, afraid that some science fiction nightmare might unfold right there in my kitchen or bathroom: an epidemic of flesh-eating, brain-dissolving, limb-paralyzing organisms.' Chicago Tribune/MCT File

It started with sticky fingerprints on my laptop screen. I could no longer ignore what was probably obvious to anyone else with good eyesight and an unwavering drive for cleanliness. My old trusty gadget — used by yours truly when traveling and by the grandchildren, including the owner of said sticky fingerprints, most every other time — needed a good wiping down and sprucing up.

So I did what so many of us do these days when faced with a task. I Googled “how to clean a laptop.” Sounds like a good idea, no? And it might’ve been genius had I stuck to the topic at hand and ignored every other article that rolled down from my search.

I didn’t. I never do. For me researching online is like falling off the edge of the earth, or at least falling into a virtual rabbit hole. When I climb out many, many minutes later, I’m dumbfounded by the time I’ve wasted but also by all I’ve learned. Occasionally I’ve even forgotten the information I wanted in the first place.

That’s exactly what happened when I decided to clean my laptop. I found a very helpful New York Times piece about the subject, but so much more too; article after article about all the disgusting, germ-filled places in a home. That sent me into a tizzy. A justifiable one because, like anyone who has strolled the cleaning products aisle, I know that our surroundings teem with microbes: tiny, writhing bugs that need to be sprayed, wiped, and otherwise disinfected right out of our lives.

Look, I’m no domestic goddess. I keep a relatively tidy house but only half-heartedly, as my mother drilled the habit into me by forcing her daughters to help her clean the house every dang weekend. (Can you say child labor?) But you would not, could not step into my house and declare, in an envious or admiring tone, “You can eat off the floor!” In fact, sometimes you can’t even eat off the dining room table, so laden is it with papers, mail and The Hubby’s stuff.

But the laptop, the filthy, grimy laptop! Turns out it should’ve been the least of my worries. So many other items hanging oh-so-innocuously around the house turn out to be little more than petri dishes for germs.

Take the humble kitchen sponge. We all know that it can be a slobbery setting for dubious microorganisms — but that’s framing it mildly. About 10 million bacteria can set up shop in a square inch of a sponge, with E. coli topping the pecking order and Salmonella not far behind. And I scrub my pots with that?!

The kitchen towel is no slouch in the icky competition, either. A recent study found that half those handy-dandy accessories contain enough bacteria to cause food poisoning. Those of us who eat meat, reside in humid environments and use the rag for multiple purposes could count on an increased bacterial load.

Cutting boards brim with germiness, too, as do coffee makers, plastic water bottles and an assortment of items that we come into contact with daily. Our cellphones? They’re rife with assassins, specifically fecal bacteria. More than what you would find on a toilet seat.

Toothbrush holders? An abomination. Handbags? A disaster. The bottom is likely to contain trace amount of bad-for-you organisms. And shoes? A hazard. They can carry clostridium difficile, or C. diff, known to cause everything from diarrhea to fatal infections. Even those cute rubber duckies I keep by the bathtub harbor terrorists in the form of bacteria and fungi.

I’m so grossed out that I’m afraid to touch anything around the house, afraid that some science fiction nightmare might unfold right there in my kitchen or bathroom: an epidemic of flesh-eating, brain-dissolving, limb-paralyzing organisms.

And all because I wanted to clean my laptop screen.

Ana Veciana-Suarez writes about family and social issues. Email her at avecianasuarez@gmail.com or visit her website anavecianasuarez.com. Follow @AnaVeciana.
  Comments