Tag Archives: germs

I Do Not Have the Best of Friends.

keith chuck meMy hands had sweaters for weeks.

A friend is someone who knows you so well that they can tell what you’re thinking without being told, knows how you’re feeling and how you respond to certain things, and knows all your likes and dislikes.  Really, really close friends learn these things so that they can use the information against you in unspeakable and evil ways.

I worked in the college bookstore industry for over 22 years until some lumpy guy with an MBA and no chin from the corporate office downsized me.  I got my two month “golden parachute,” a “thanks for 22 years of hard work,” a hardy handshake and the prospect of standing on the street corner for the rest of my life with a “Hungry, please help me” sign clutched between my gaunt, white hands.  It all worked out for the best, but at the time, faced with losing my job and not getting to work with the two guys I had come to look at as brothers, life seemed pretty low.

Twenty two years is a long time to do any one thing and it’s amazing the amount of useless information that I had gathered in my head over that period of time.  Equally daunting to me was the realization of exactly how useless that information was outside of the college bookstore industry.  I guess it’s the same with any industry, but it was a bit of a shock trying to figure out how I was going to feed the family knowing that the only real information I had to offer prospective employers was things like knowing the first six digits of the skus for all the vendors I ordered from or that the Pentel P207 is the finest mechanical pencil every made and that the only stapler worth owning was the Swingline 747 (it comes in red, too).

There were things I wasn’t going to miss about the bookstore, like stacking boxes of books or dealing with helicopter moms, but there were things I would miss terribly, things that I still miss to this day like working with some of my closest friends and the energy generated by kids attending college for the first time and the feeling of knowing that I could probably answer any question they could ask.  AND, there was also nothing quite like attending the annual college bookstore trade show.

Not many people get to experience all expense paid trips to big cities, staying in nice hotels and eating food you can’t afford in real life.  And the only real cost you had to pay was the pound of flesh you lost by having to weave your way through row after row of seedy-looking vendors who were doing everything they legally could do to get you to buy their junk. I relished it.  I placed a lot of orders, but I also did my best to cram as much free vendor swag as possible into my bags.    Free stuff meant that I wouldn’t have to think about what to get my kids for Christmas again that year.

Okay, I wasn’t as bad as that, but I did keep their drawers filled for years with everything from floaty fish and Rubik’s Cubes to hacky sacks and pen lights.  I have four kids, but vendors were more than happy to let me have four packages of whatever I wanted.  If I took them it meant that they didn’t have to pack it up and bring it back home with them.  I was so excited to give this stuff to my kids that I would ship my clothes home in a box and stuff my luggage with the trinkets.

I loved going to the trade show and kind of forgot about it as I started my new job.  After four years it was completely out of my mind, that is, until I received a trade show gift package in the mail from my bookstore friends Keith and Chuck.  I was never so excited to open a package in my life.  I carried it around the office, hugging it to my body, showing others, and even opened it in the presence of a few people to let them revel in the gifts that were all mine.  I even might have actually laughed out loud and danced a little, held it to my face and called it “My Precious.”

20140318_162204

I pulled out trade show T-shirts, fake teeth, mustache tattoos, dollar store flash lights, paper pads and cheap pens.  It was a bunch of junk – except for the golf balls – but I loved it.  I was just really touched that they cared enough to remember me in their fun.

I immediately texted them to thank them for thinking of me and I told them how much I appreciated their “gift.”

“Thought you would like it,” was the reply I got.

“Thought you would like this, too:” was the second text I received a few minutes later.

Urinal

Yep.  It turned my gift into a box of Ebola.  Boy, I love my friends.

This Suite Did Not Suit

20131213_072610

Stewing in their own juices.

I hate falling victim to good advertising and shady marketing schemes.  The sad thing is that I usually know better.  I am a cynic at heart and carry around low expectations like an Eeyore looking for his tail and because of that I’m never surprised when I pull my McChicken out of the bag and it looks like it’s been held tightly in the armpit of an East German woman or that the new X-Ray glasses that I ordered from the back of a comic book won’t actually allow me to see through walls.  I have just come to expect such things.

The problem is, I love a great deal.  The willingness that I have to suspend my disbelief is directly affected by the ratio between the amount of money that I might save and how large the potentiality of awesomeness an item possesses.  If there is a chance that I could pay less for something that I know costs a lot more or there is the possibility that an item will make my life somehow markedly better, the belief in that thing borders on idolatry.  There is always a still, small voice of doubt echoing somewhere in my head, but I mostly ignore it.  I firmly believe that there are such things as free lunches and I am confident that before I die, I will, at some point, get something for nothing.

The Ameri Stay Inn & Suites has a very nice website, their prices are reasonable AND all of their rooms are suites.  This suited me fine.  If I had to be away from my family on business for a few days, why not get a suite?  Sleep in one room, work in the other.   And the price was cheaper than The Holiday Inn Express, non-suite room.  The ratio was just about perfect. I ignored the warning bells firing in my head and booked a room for three nights. How bad could it be?

Pulling into town the hotel address I had entered into my GPS led me to the front door of Papa’s Poker Room and Casino.  While Papa’s is a casino, it isn’t the Belagio.  There are no fountains, unless you classify the guy who was relieving himself on the side of the building as a very small fountain.  I called the hotel, thinking that I entered the address wrong, and was told by the disinterested voice that if I just drove through the casino parking lot and past the bowling alley I would see the hotel.  At that point my “Oh Crap” meter was pegged.

There was a bell on the counter at the front desk, but I didn’t even think of using it because the black eye-shadowed attendant and her boyfriend (his black hair covering one eye in a long sweep), were sitting at the desk right behind it.  They didn’t look up.  I stood at the counter for a few minutes silently waiting for them to finish their game of Bubble Pop.  When they had finished, and before they could start a new game, I tentatively clicked the silver bell button.  It gave a sickly ring.  Four bloodshot eyes rolled in sync and locked onto mine.  The girl reached up and placed her finger deliberately on the bell.  I smiled.  She heaved a sigh and pushed away from the desk.  When she asked me how many hours I needed the room for, I knew I was in deep, deep trouble.

What many of you may not know is that I have an issue with the unclean (I also used to have issues with the undead, but I lived through teenagers so I’ve gotten over that). I also have a very good imagination and since I work in a hospital I know that just because something may look clean, it doesn’t mean it is clean.  What you see as clean, I see as potential nastiness – like an invisible, steamy, rainforest of death.  I buy hand sanitizer in the 64 oz container.

Some people have gone so far as to call me germaphobic and suggest that I get help.  Before you call an intervention, I just have to say that the Bible is on my side.  Doesn’t it say that “Cleanliness is next to godliness” (okay, maybe the was Ben Franklin, but he was a founding father so it’s almost the same)?  I’m the normal one, people, and it’s all of you that are crazy.  If you all knew what I know about invisible death you would run screaming from public restrooms just like I do.  It is not my fault.  I like my own germs just fine – I just can’t seem to abide other people’s flora and fauna.

Something happens inside my head when I begin thinking about any public object that I touch because studies have shown that almost everything I, or you,  touch is covered in a mixture of fecal material, blood and nasal effluence. How do you get that thought out of your head once it’s in there?  What were the people doing in order to get that on their hands? I have really got to stop thinking about this.

Touching anything like shopping carts or handrails makes my hands feel like they are growing little green mittens.  As soon as it becomes socially acceptable to wear a mask in public (think surgeon, not luchador) I will strap one on in a heartbeat because almost every spec of dust you see floating in the air is really a fleck of someone else’s sloughed skin.  I hate the thought of a tiny piece of someone else lodging firmly in my bronchial airways. Come on people!  Use a loofah!

20131211_071942

I pulled my truck around back and parked it underneath one of two working lights which, I found out the next morning, happened to be right in front of the industrial dryer vent (my truck was covered in a thick mat of frozen lint by then).  At the time parking next to a light seemed prudent.  I walked past the cigarette smoking drunkenness at the back entryway, slid my card quickly into the slot and when the little light flicked from red to green, pushed my way in.  I pulled the door shut behind me before the smokers could get in.  They stood at the door and stared at me like something out of the Walking Dead.

20131212_165739

I was a bit puzzled to see a dark green couch parked beneath the stairwell, like a dejected, cast-off from the Brady Bunch set.  As I stepped over the couple talking in the hallway I realized the green couch had to be really bad if they had opted to sit on the floor instead of using it.  I opened my room door and closed it behind me with a satisfying click.  I bolted the lock and flicked the little safety latch over.  I turned on the light and my heart about fell out of my chest and onto the floor.  Had it actually leapt from my chest and onto the floor, I would have left it there, not wanting to put the filthy thing back into my body.

The place appeared clean enough, but I was very glad at that moment not to be in possession of a black light.  Believe me, my imagination was doing a good enough job letting me know exactly what was in the room without it.  I had booked a suite and by golly that’s what I got, but is wasn’t the kind of suite that I was expecting with a writing desk, chair and separate television (like every other suite in existence).  Smack in the middle of this suite was a large, mirror encased, hot tub.

20131211_070801

My head swam.  I was like that Nigerian swimmer at the Olympics a few years back who had just learned to swim the month before being sent to Beijing as his country’s lone entrant.  I was dog paddling and people were screaming in my head, only these people were hoping to see someone drown and I was going to oblige.

This was no jungle or Tahiti themed room, but it might as well have been.  This room was designed for business, but not for any kind of business I was interested in.  I staggered past the cesspool and made my way to the bed.  I had to sit.  I grabbed the comforter by the very edge, yanked it from the bed in one swift motion (comforters are sickly dirty) and piled it into the corner, realizing far too late that I had just launched every latent skin cell that was silently resting on the spread into the air.  I pulled my t-shirt over my mouth and nose and, using a tissue to lift the receiver, called the Holiday Inn to see if they still had a room open.  They didn’t.  I was stuck for the duration.  I came close to weeping.

As I sat on the bed, trying not to think any thoughts at all, a vision kept popping into my head.  It was a vision of the thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands) of people who had stumbled from the casino or bowling alley to use my hotel room for other reasons than rest.   I was sickened and it felt like the room was closing in on me.  At that moment it seemed like every single person who ever used the room was standing unclothed in the room with me and they were all fat and hairy and shirtless and wore tightie-whities.  It was claustrophobic.  I was sitting on a bed, an island of sorts, in the vast ocean of other people’s body fluids and the weight of that knowledge was making the bed smaller and smaller.  I hugged my knees to my chest and tried to relax.  I turned the TV on with my shoe and tried not to think about it.  I couldn’t even look at the tub.

We have whirlpools in the birthing rooms at the hospital where I work.  After baby and mother have gone home, environmental services cleans the tub by running  a strong solution of water, disinfectant, and biological cleanser through them a number of times before rinsing clean.  This is a time consuming and expensive process and not something I’m sure this hotel did.  If it isn’t done, little body pieces sit in the inner pumps and hoses and grow silently, snickering in the warm, moist environment waiting to spew forth a maelstrom of other people’s DNA when the tub is filled and put into use by the next contestants. It’s like a human crockpot.

After watching a few hours of Say Yes to The Dress (it was the channel that the TV was turned to and I couldn’t touch the remote to turn the channel) I forced myself off the bed, put my bag on the wooden table and got ready for the night.  I brushed my teeth and washed my face with water from my Nalgene without setting anything on the counter or letting any part of my body touch the Formica.  Don’t ask me how I did this, but the last thing I shed from my body were my shoes and these I set right next to the bed in case I needed to get up during the night.

20131211_071509

There is a scene in Die Hard where the Bruce Willis character takes off his shoes and squishes his toes into the carpet in order to release the tension of travel.  This scene always makes me cringe when I think about how many people have done the exact same thing.  The podiatrist at work told me that the single greatest cause of nail and foot fungus is the carpet in hotel rooms.  Vindication!  I will never have this problem, but I do wonder what the housekeeper thinks when a single guy uses enough bathroom linen for four people.   It really was the only way for me to get from the shower to my clothes. Have you seen nail fungus?  I’m not trying to be a foot model, but I do want to be able to wear sandals in the summer.

I slept little, but survived my first night and was looking for my free continental breakfast.  By God, I deserved it.   The attending queen-of-the-microwave didn’t look up from her People magazine as I entered the “breakfast” room.  Fresh eggs and bacon, a waffle or maybe some french toast and a big glass of cold orange juice would just about put things right.

The smorgasbord consisted of one small tin pan of “eggs” and one aluminum pan of “sausage patties” and some liquid that could have been prune or old cranberry juice.  I guess hookers and drug addicts don’t really care what they have for breakfast. 20131211_070749

I did survive for all three days, but just barely.  It is amazing what you can live through if you have enough hand sanitizer.  I was never so thankful to put a place in my rear view mirror.  There was one thing that I never did figure out though.  Why would they leave lotion, soap and a hand towel on the microwave.  I guess some things are better left a mystery.

20131211_071748