Going to public places is difficult for a germophobe.  Rubbing elbows with people who are unconcerned about dirt and germs is unsettling, to be sure.  If only that were the worst of it!  Their hands are exponentially more hazardous than their elbows.  Although many hours and dollars are lost to decontamination after encounters with this substantial slice of the population, there are many instances when I appear to sabotage myself.  What follows is such an account.

I don’t like to do it, but there are days when I have to leave my teacup unwashed overnight at the office.  Deadlines and other concerns can interfere with getting to the break room sink before five o’clock, but at least the cup has had only tea or sometimes coffee in it, with no milk or sugar.  The point is, there’s no icky, sticky residue left overnight.  Nevertheless, I won’t use the cup the next day without washing it first.  Getting to the sink is not as easy as it sounds.  On this day, I had a particularly busy morning and kept putting off the washing of the cup, but as eleven o’clock rolled around, I was in dire need of my tea.  Unfortunately, that’s often the time that activity picks up in the break room.  Some people get hungry before noon and go in to have a snack; others take a late break and linger in there.  Whatever the case, I was delayed getting to the sink until ten minutes to noon.   Again, why the delay?  Because I don’t like to have my co-workers watch me wash the cup.  I use my own soap and napkins for washing, and I use a napkin to turn the faucet on and off, so I prefer not to have any observers, if possible.

Finally my chance came, and I rushed to the sink only to find that the sink was not clean.  There are a few co-workers that have the inconsiderate and unnecessary habit of leaving dirty dishes in the sink for hours at a time.  What I found in there this time was a dirty pie tin full of water.  Were they really going to reuse it?  I had my doubts, so I went to my desk and got a plastic baggie to transfer the tin from the sink to the trash can right next to the sink.  That seems like a simple task, but it requires an unexpected amount of attention.  Holding it with the baggie, I dumped the water out of the tin.  Apparently I thought it was safe to look in the trash can while I then moved the tin out of the sink, but I should have watched what I was doing because I hit the faucet with the tin.  And it wasn’t the side of the faucet.  I caught the head of the faucet on the inside of the pie tin, the nasty, filthy pie tin.  It’s quite probable that the opening where the water comes out touched the bottom of the inside of the tin.  I had a problem.

It was now very close to noon, but there was no way that I could wash my cup under that dirty faucet.  I needed to let hot water run through it for five minutes to flush away any germs.  It seemed unlikely that I would get the privacy that I needed to do this.  I quickly turned on the hot water and started counting away the seconds in my head.  I made it to one minute and fifteen seconds when I heard someone coming.  She was just passing through to go to the vending machine, but I knew she’d be back by shortly, and I didn’t want her to see me standing there doing nothing but watch the water run.  I shut it off and went back to my desk to listen for her to come back through.  A minute later she did, and I rushed back in and flipped the water on again.  I let it run for two-and-a-half minutes, then I heard another person come in.  I shut the water off and walked back to my desk again, and I heard the next person open the microwave and start it.  At that point I thought I had no chance to get this done before noon because people often take up to ten minutes to heat their food.  By some miracle, this person took only three minutes and left promptly.  I headed in there a third time.  It was 11:59, and I needed to run the hot water for another minute and fifteen seconds.  I anxiously waited, certain that the influx of people would happen at any moment, but I counted out the remaining seconds, still alone in the room.

The time was up!  I washed my cup and darted to my desk as my co-workers were walking down the hall towards the break room.  I made it!  But I really need to be more careful and not make my life more difficult than it already is.

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