Purell Madness

Every time I spot one of these dispensers, I feel a little more like the terrorists are winning.

Purell and lesser-known hand sanitizers seem to have infiltrated all areas of our everyday life. It’s a little troubling, when you think about it. The desire to remain healthy I get, but the constant awareness seems to breed obsession. And annoyance.

I guess I was largely ignorant to the omnipresence of these antibacterial potions until Tuesday evening, when a group of tourists promptly distributed a bottle from hand to hand as soon as they got off my streetcar. It’s the same streetcar I take every day after work, and frankly, I was little insulted by their insistence on – not 10 feet from the streetcar – showering their hands and arms in Purell, as if they were a surgical team prepping for a kidney transplant. Wouldn’t you know the same thing happened again last night — half-a-dozen folks pile off the streetcar, and the first thing they do is disinfect.

I felt, in both cases, this was the equivalent to someone reaching for their travel-size Purell immediately after shaking your hand. I understand there’s a practical element to maintaining cleanliness, killing germs, thwarting bacteria, etc. And I know there probably do exist a germ or two on public transportation vehicles. But, as with anything, there’s tact involved. Decorum, if you will. Etiquette, if you won’t. The application of hand sanitizer can be off-putting when done in a manner that says I need this now before the decay sets in! It was something about their fervor, in both cases, that sort of made me wish cholera upon them. “Anal” comes to mind.

Everywhere you look, people and places are going to extreme measures — or at least extravagant measures — to decontaminate the world around us.

For example, the office I work in has three motion-sensor Purell dispensers. Furthermore, in the restroom, you will find the toilets, faucets and soap dispensers also use motion sensers. A handicapped button will open the double-doors to the restroom and our offices use keycard security for the doors that never completely latch, so you can open them with a kick or push. That’s a lot of technology for the sole purpose of ensuring, what, we don’t catch the common cold? We don’t get coodies?

Spring starts in less than two weeks, which means I will have survived my first winter in Portland without getting sick. Not a persistent cough, sniffle or even a shiver. I’ll admit I was wary of germs when the H1N1 scare was going on, but since then, I’ve maintained basic hygeine, nothing extravagant. My health could be due to this daily multivitamin I’ve been taking, but my immune system has always been a combative S.O.B. Or, maybe it’s that everyone around me is so insistent upon constantly sanitizing and antibacterializing, and I’m the benefactor of their due diligence.

In that case, thank you, germaphobes.

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2 thoughts on “Purell Madness

  1. I work with a germaphobe. And I mean, her hands are dried and cracked from Purell-ing every few minutes. She also is the most sickly girl in the office. She has killed all her good germs that are supposed to fight off the bad guys. Purrell is not always a bad thing, especially if you catch the kid next to you on the light rail licking the pole. But I wouldn’t be surprised if in a couple years scientists find out that it is the root of some of our health problems.

  2. The Purell ablutions have practically become a sacrament, especially here in Canada, where they have been very very serious about preventing the the flu (or, even more ominous, la grippe) from becoming the plague everyone imagined. But it is not just here, I know. In fact (speaking of sacraments) when I was in Wisconsin over the holidays, the Catholic church I went to one Sunday had actually obtained an ornate metal-looking Purell pump that was displayed semi-prominently in the sanctuary, and all the communion distributors availed themselves of it before they handed out eucharistic wafers to the congregation. It was kind of weird to say the least.

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