In the movie “Contagion”, the transfer mechanism that spreads the deadly virus is the combination of touching an infected object and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth before disinfecting your hands. The deadly little monsters are everywhere, it turns out, and our strange habits of self-soothing lead to our demise. Riding the bus had never seemed the best way to travel, but that movie made it downright scary–and I’ve ridden the bus in downtown Cleveland in the 70s.
I have been painfully self-conscious of this face-touching habit in myself, and thought I had it fixed, but the other day I touched myself in a way that was a problem.
Like most people, I touch quite a few things in the course of a day, but I also wash my hands a lot. In winter my hands are red and raw from their essential oils being scrubbed away. In summer, fungus grows on the north side of my palm due to insufficient drying. In general, I wash enough that I think I do a good job of removing foreign agents from my skin. That, and being particular about how, where, and when I touch myself should have kept me risk free.
My problem is that I’m too nice. My neighbor asked me to feed his cats during the weekend, and I agreed. That’s not the part of me that is too nice. I don’t think helping a neighbor is ever a too nice of a thing to do, short of lending them money or inserting a catheter. While I fed the cats, I took pity on them and petted them.
A few minutes later, my right eye started to itch. It itched and itched and itched, and I scratched. Only after a serious session of eye-gouging did I realize I was touching myself inappropriately. Then I also realized that I must have touched myself prior to that, delivering the allergen that so tormented me directly to one of the three most sensitive parts of my body. It’s like waking up with a rash in your privates and the vague memory of dream you can’t repeat to anyone.
My eye swelled up, and only several hours of a cold compress brought relief. The memory of those few hours of discomfort shall stand as a strong reminder to ignore cats and to keep my hands to myself.