It's flu season and about nine zillion people in Norwalk have it. OK, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but walk through the stores and you'll hear folks hacking and sneezing, sounding like an orchestra tuning up.
The germs are lurking out there, just waiting to get us. One wrong move, one biological thug gets inside us and we're growing a third eye or branches out of our foreheads or at the very least, you get the flu.
Look I'm all for ultimate hygiene, but do you think maybe we've gone a tich overboard in our vigilance to avoid germs? You know there's an enterprising lawyer out there, trying to figure out a way to sue someone for giving you the flu.
When I was kid, we didn't worry about germs and somehow we survived. We ate everything short of dirt, hardly washed our hands and sneezed and coughed all over each other. But we made it.
Perhaps I was a weird kid, but I was always a healthy one. Maybe I was lucky, but I violated every hygienic rule today and lived to tell about it.
During the summer, my friends and I (we were around 10 years old) loved to drink water out of a garden hose. The water tasted so cold and sweet on a hot summer day -- better than the bottled stuff we buy now.
It didn't matter whose hose it was. We saw a hose hanging on the side of some friend or neighbor's house and we were on it, slurping down water. More than once, the hose was lying in a puddle on the lawn, occasionally caked with mud. You switched on the water, wiped away the dirt, and drank. Delicious.
By today's standards, we were practically committing suicide by germ ingestion. These days, people can't drink the water out of the tap without making a disgusted "Eeewwww" face. Call me a peasant, but I don't need designer water. I happen to like water from the tap with a couple of ice cubes (frozen from tap water).
In school, we also drank out of the water fountain with no disastrous side effects. Sure, some kid always threw a piece of paper in there, but we drank any way. If you thought it was gross, you closed your eyes and slurped the water.
As kids, we also always shared our treats -- a bottle of soda or an ice cream cone. If you were licking a cone and a friend yelled licks, you had to hand over your ice cream to allow him a few snaky licks. You knew you were going to get some of his when he had a special treat; it all evened out in the end -- even the germs we passed back and forth.
Today, parents would pass out if they knew their kids had shared anything. It was our code to share, deny someone a swallow or a lick and you were considered a weenie.
At the time, we also lived by the five-second rule, which my mother taught me -- if food drops on the floor and you pick it up within five seconds, it was clean enough to eat.
I remember walking down the street with a friend and we were each enjoying a slice of pizza from our favorite pizza joint. He jostled me as I was about to slide the tip of the pizza slice in my mouth and it hit the sidewalk.
My mouth fell open in disbelief as I stared at the blob of cheese and dough on the sidewalk. My friend started yelling at me to pick it up immediately, reminding me of the five-second rule.
Without hesitation, I pounced on the pizza, piling the cheese back onto the dough and inspecting it for any noticeable dirt. For good measure, I blew on it to dislodge any tiny unseen pieces of dust and bit into it. I swore that it never tasted better. Bon appetit.
My exposure to germs didn't stop there. I recall my mother dragging me to the Italian deli with the butcher behind the meat counter with bloodstains on his apron.
My mother told him she wanted fresh ground chuck for hamburgers. He brought out a pile of beef and slapped it on the scale.
With his fingers (get ready to gasp), he put a little on or scooped a little off, then wrapped it up. He was very health conscious; he wiped his hands off on his apron before he served another customer.
Sticks of salami and pepperoni also hung above the counter, giving off a delightful spicy aroma.
In the summer, a fly or two always lighted on the meat, which the butcher shooed away as he ripped off a stick to weigh for my mother. As we carried it to the cashier, I couldn't wait to get home and eat a few slices. I had already forgotten about the flies.
Before the days when we practically dipped our kids in sanitary liquid, I recall mothers cleaning their kids faces with a napkin moistened with their saliva.
In those prehistoric times, a mother was considered loving when she used any means possible to keep her child's face clean -- even spit.
Today, we douse our kids and ourselves to kill germs. If we have colds, we don't shake hands or co-workers eye you suspiciously if you cough at work. What's more, sanitary liquids dispensers hang on the walls of many public buildings and in offices.
Maybe the germs are tougher, and maybe I'm just lucky to have made it this far with contracting Dengue Fever. But I'm thinking we've fallen over the germ-phobia cliff. Stay healthy, the flu germs are out there -- lurking.
Frank Szivos is a freelance writer who uses sanitary liquid but still follows the five-second rule. He can be reached at email@example.com.