We all have them.
Everyone has one or two things (or hundreds, I suppose, if you tend to be particularly neurotic) that make their skin crawl. Fingernails dragged across a chalk board. Knuckles being cracked. Gum being smacked.
Still with me?
What is it about these things that rattle us? I mean, I’m sitting here getting goosebumps just picturing the metal end of an old #2 pencil–the part that holds the cube-like nub of pink eraser–being chewed and crinkled and then scritched across a desk. Oh, man. Ick factor on overload.
I really began to pay attention to the things that weird me out when, earlier this week, I was pumping gas and my middle son started mocking me. I hate pumping gas. If there’s not a paper towel to wrap around the gas pump handle, I can’t do it. I will scour my car for some type of baby wipe, damp towel, musty sock…you name it–because I cannot hold on to the actual pump.
Yes, it’s odd. I can’t help envisioning all the filth on all the hands of all the people who’ve come by and held on to that very pump. Have you ever seen someone clean a gas pump handle (other than me, of course)? Let’s be honest here; gas stations in general aren’t exactly a bastion of cleanliness. Ponder for a moment those chopped off broom sticks on which the restroom key typically hangs. Where do customers put that thing when they are inside the bathroom? The floor? Oh, man. See what I mean. Sorry, QuikTrip, but you gross me out.
ATM’s can get under my skin, too. Especially on Mondays when you just know that drive-up money machine has endured a hot mess of people in various states of inebriation during the past 72 hours. And again, when’s the last time someone has wiped down the keypad with Lysol? Um, never.
But despite this issue I have with items that are regularly touched by the general public (grocery carts…let’s not leave them out of this), I’m not a germ-o-phobe. I promise. I don’t carry buckets of hand-sanitizer along with me, nor do I give my kids a good wipe-down pre- and post- playground visits. We go to bouncy houses; we go to LegoLand at the mall; we go bowling, for crying out loud, and not once have I had a freak out. But I definitely grew into this level of, ahem, acceptance.
My cousin and I were once in Boston–over a decade ago–riding a jam-packed train back from a Red Sox game. She asked me if I was in a life-or-death situation, which would I rather do: lick the floor of the train or lick the pole that runs above all the seats. It was so far-fetched, so out of left field, that it was knee-slapping funny. It was like that old collegiate drinking game, “Who Would You Do?” [Side note: my college friends and I once played this ridiculous game so long (“Esther Rolle or Nell Carter?”, “Christopher Walken or Steve Buscemi?”) that my friend Allie actually threw out “Elmo or Cookie Monster?” We knew then the game had run its course.]
But back to Boston. Kate and I tried to out-gross each other. Lick a used band-aid or lick an open wound (neither of which were your own, of course)? Drink a cup of chunky sour milk or eat a moldy, fuzzy strawberry? Not only did we freak ourselves out, we were giving everyone else around us the willies as well. (The fact that we were rolling with laughter didn’t help us look any more normal, either…)
Then she told me that once when she was little, her mother had actually licked her eyeball to get a huge fleck of some pokey, painful thing out of it for her. At the time, single and childless, the thought repulsed me to the point of uncontrollable laughter (yet again) but today? I’d lick my son’s eyeball in a Minnesota minute. If someone was about to hurt my child, I’d lick the handrail, the floor AND a gas pump handle. I’d down that glass of sour milk and then go kiss Christopher Walken. Wouldn’t you? For your child?
Oh, the things we do for love. Doing something we’d never normally do. Ever. Braving the willies for our offspring. Absolutely. In a heartbeat. Bring it.
Now for my husband…hmmm. Might be a tougher call.
(Oh, come on; I’m just kidding! Pucker up, Marty Feldman!)