Paranoid precautions

LOOKING ASKANCE - Joseph T. Gonzales (The Freeman) - March 22, 2020 - 12:00am

I never thought my phobias and paranoid tendencies would exceed acceptable levels. I thought my paranoia healthy, even. But these days, I have reached new heights.

“Germ-averse” would probably be the best phrase to describe me, pre-COVID-19 times. It would be manifested in various ways, such as refusing to touch elevator buttons, using for this purpose car keys or the corners of my mobile phone. Before exiting public bathroom doors that cannot be opened with a kick of the foot, I would also gingerly hold the knobs with prepared tissue, something I could throw away after touching the knob.

As our office had fingerprint pads for access to the building, I would gingerly press my thumb on the pad and then hurriedly swab it with alcohol right after. It was something I did not look forward to, and I would always worry that someone ahead of me had a cold or the flu on his fingers. Or worse.

As news of the coronavirus started occupying front pages and yapping mouths, I observed many more people around me taking the same precautions. It became de rigeur for meeting rooms to feature boxes of tissue and bottles of rubbing alcohol. Some employees would piggy-back on others entering the building doors, waiting patiently outside a locked door, for a few minutes even, until another less-conscious sucker would deign to subject his finger to possible germs.

But, as the public’s fears have ramped up due to the pandemic, so have my own. China locked down entire cities, and that paved the way for many other countries to follow its model. I guess the public became conditioned to accepting that yes, it is acceptable, in the name of societal health, for people to be virtually imprisoned inside their homes, and that is what we are experiencing at the moment. A lockdown.

In its midst, there I was, casually withdrawing cash from the ATM when a girl beside me occupies the adjacent booth. She starts swiping the keypad with a mini-bottle of alcohol that she had toted along. What a fantastic idea! I smiled at her precautions, and then I froze.

What about me? My fingers had just been caressing a metal keypad to enter my PIN - who knew how many people ahead of me had withdrawn cash on that very same ATM? It was 8 p.m. - hundreds of people could already have smeared their bacteria on the keypad. Who knew whether the coronavirus was lurking on its gleaming surface? (Come to think if it, it wasn’t gleaming - it was grubby.) Ugh.

My fingers then had to touch the cash, and then my wallet to put the cash in, and then my pocket to put my wallet in. Shoot, so many things to disinfect. Note to self: next time, bring alcohol along before withdrawing cash.

Next up, arriving home. Reading all these shared posts circulating on my Viber and messenger groups on health tips have not done a lot to put me at ease. One such tip was to make sure to only have one pair of shoes for going out of the house. No shoes inside, preferably.

Are you kidding me? That just triggered a new wave of daily precautions. Upon arriving at home, a bottle of Lysol spray awaits. I walk in, grab the bottle, and spray the hell out of the soles of my shoes. Then, I spray the floor to make doubly sure, take my shoes off, and plant the pair on the sprayed area. Then i suffer a few sticky Lysoled steps before running to the shower, where a quick rinse awaits my legs and feet.

As I’m doing this, I’m wondering whether the rest of the world has descended into this madness, or whether this is just me. Let me know when it’s time to have me committed. Gah, I hate commitments.


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