Sam Redman's Musings

Random thoughts on a variety of subjects

Sometimes Paranoia is a good thing

By Sam Redman

(if you’re here via a web link looking for another subject, just scroll down or check the archives)

Several years ago, after reading about the dangers or risk of transmitting diseases by the simple act of one person touching an object which a contagious individual has just contacted, I started thinking about door knobs and handles in public places and wondered if those surfaces might be some of the most logical locations where transmittable bacteria and virus might reasonably be assumed to reside. From what I understand, the cleansing power of the air is enough to render a contaminated surface not harmful after a given period of time, once the moisture is gone and the oxygen does its job, but the range of time period to safety is (at least in what I have read) somewhat of an inexact detail. It has been stated from a few seconds to over several minutes in various articles which talked about “germs” and their transmission. Thinking about that, I figured that door knobs (or other mechanical devices for opening doors) in highly trafficked commercial or government facilities would be very likely candidates for the most plausible areas where residual fluids would remain in a dangerous state after being deposited from the hands of previous portal travelers suffering from the flu or a common cold (or maybe even something more serious), because often only a few seconds elapses between one person handling the door and the next one coming along and grabbing right where the previous individual touched. Just think about that person who, moments before, sneezed into his hand or merely touched his nose or mouth while suffering from some communicable illness (or maybe they just used the restroom and didn’t wash their hands) and now picture them having just gone through that door only seconds prior to you being presented that very same handle to grab. Scary.

So, about three years ago, I started doing something which for a long time garnered a glance or two, because what I was doing has characteristically been shamed as an indication of a person having some sort of psychological malady or phobia (and any of those are generally automatically considered to be misplaced). But I accepted that my particular “phobia” (fear can be a good thing) made sense and so I began using a part of my shirt or sweater (or jacket) to open doors, never touching any door handle with my bare hands. Yes, it looks a bit “wacky.” But, it is very satisfying and for me (as a sampling of one… I know it’s not very scientific, of course) it proved to be very beneficial. In previous years, I had experienced the usual run of colds and coughs and sniffles along with a bout of at least a “flu-like” illness every winter. But, to the amazement of my friends and family members, since I began my crazy “compulsive” paranoid never-touch-a-door-handle behaviour, I haven’t had but perhaps two very mild colds over three years. Sure, it might be a coincidence, but once the swine flu publicity started to spread and friends began to reflect on my “coincidental” lack of illness, I have gotten quite a few converts from the ranks of those who originally scoffed.

One thing that makes it easier for me is that I dress very casually, so having the soft cloth of a t-shirt or a Henley pullover makes it a lot easier than a more formal shirt or a business oxford cloth which is properly tucked in. In that case, I usually have on a suit jacket or a sport coat and I just use the bottom of that to grab the door. Yes, it looks wierd, but I am convinced (from my own healthy results) that this simple procedure is effective.

I say, don’t be influenced by the strange cultural customs which would pressure you into not taking a very simple precaution which is readily available from just a simple change in your routine. Start today only opening any public door with the edge of your shirt or sweater… I think you’ll thank me for it before the winter is gone.

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This entry was posted on September 4, 2009 by and tagged , , , , , .