“Can you open that door for me?” Erica Hefnawy ’15 asked as we approached chemistry classroom 3028. She pulled her sleeves over her hands before sliding into the room, avoiding touching the door at all costs. Hefnawy is a self-diagnosed “germaphobe” and avoids touching handles or doors as much as she can.
“Just thinking about how many people touched something before me grosses me out a bit” she said.
The tiny microorganisms, called germs, may be invisible, but they can have a very visible effect on those who are afraid of them.
The fears actually are not unfounded. The world we live in is crawling with germs. Germs live in dirt, in water, on countertops, on skin, and just about every surface you touch.
According to ABC News, just flushing a toilet can spread germs as far as six feet and those germs tend to land directly on your toothbrush. Surprisingly, however, the kitchen sink contains about 100,000 times more germs than the bathroom.
It doesn’t stop there. The doctors office might seem safe, but the University of Arizona researchers who tested 616 surfaces in nine professions for germs found that a medical doctor carries around 2,000 bacteria per square inch.
While an average person may not give much thought to the germs, germaphobes make it their business to obsess over them.
“If we’re shaking hands at a lacrosse game, or even punching in my code at lunch I put my sleeve over my fingers,” Colby Kranz ’15 said.
On a recent Builders Beyond Borders trip, Kranz picked up a small child. She heard someone say, “‘Ella esta enferma!’ which means ‘she is sick!’ And I yanked her off me and put her on the floor as fast as I could!” Kranz said. “I thought I could die.” (On a side note, Kranz loves kids and mentioned she held nothing against the child).
Avoiding hugs and most contact is just Kranz’s way of minimizing her chances of being contaminated.
Most “germaphobes” take care of their own cleanliness, but it’s the thought that other people don’t that creates fear.
Lilly Valente ’16 said, “Just knowing that someone has touched [something] with their germs and those germs have been inside their dirty body all day makes me wanna puke.”
Valente even gets anxiety when someone takes a small sip from her water bottle. “I don’t even know if they brushed their teeth that morning, so they’re just not understanding the terror it brings to my eyes,” she explained.
Germs: they’re everywhere! The condiment dispensers in the cafeteria. Your friends cellphone. The inside door handle of a bathroom stall. And classrooms have been confirmed as the most germ-infested areas with 17,900 bacteria per square inch!
However, Jennie Blumenfeld ’15 keeps her worries in check because she has her own way of keeping the germs away. “When people touch me, I just slap them,” she joked.