The Misguided Germaphobe



I am not a medical professional, but I have heard it said that cold kills germs. Supposedly, if illness has me gripped in its brutal grasp, I should stroll out in the bitter winter chill and breathe in deep that frosty air to eradicate all those pesky bugs and viruses that have so besieged my body. It sounds suspiciously stupid to me, but who am I to say it’s not true? Since I have no specific training or knowledge in this area, I can only cling to my doubts and disbeliefs. However, Jimmy the Germaphobe swears by it.



Jimmy isn’t alone in his peculiar way of thinking, but he does take his beliefs more seriously than most. He has decided that cold is the answer to everything—the necessary avenue to cleanliness. As far as he’s concerned, soap and hot water are for suckers. Instead, he carries the scourge of germs and all uncleanliness in his right hand at all times. Clutched in that fist is a cold, damp rag that Jimmy is constantly squeezing. He folds and unfolds it compulsively, then rinses it in cold water thoroughly before wringing it out and creasing it back to its normal size.

cleaning-suppliesJimmy believes this rag is the cure-all for anything that ails a person, and he uses it on everything he comes into contact with. Doors, door knobs, bed-posts, shelves, books, cup handles, pens, eating utensils—the list goes on ad infinitum. Any object or surface gets a quick but thorough wipe down before Jimmy will risk touching it. The cold water rinse to freshen the rag has to happen as often as possible, especially if he’s using it frequently. I once stood and watched him go back and forth to the sink for another rinse three times in a minute and a half. The wet rag is his lifeline, and he doesn’t go anywhere without it. At chow, it rests on his lap between bites; on yard, as he jogs past, the rag flutters in the breeze.

However, Jimmy’s special cold damp rag isn’t only to keep the world around him free from germs. It’s also for his body. This fact becomes clear whenever someone coughs or sneezes anywhere in his vicinity. On such an occasion, Jimmy backs away from the offender and performs a whole-body rebuke in which his face scrunches in disgusted disapproval and the rest of him writhes like a snake from toes to head as his hands come up in a classic warding-off gesture. Then the rag gets put to use.

Jimmy scrubs every inch of his skin that was exposed to the air when the offensive expellation occurred. Forehead, nose, cheeks, chin, neck, arms, hands, and each individual finger. If possible he’ll get to the nearest sink to resoak his trusty rag and “wash” his hands in cold water without soap because “cold kills germs.” So strong is his belief in the germ-killing properties of cold water that after making a big meal, Jimmy washes his hot pot and bowls in nothing but cold water. I don’t eat with Jimmy.

I find Jimmy’s neuroses to be slightly sad, but also incredibly idiotic and hugely hilarious. However, since I am not an expert or trained professional, I have to wonder: what if it’s not idiotic? What if Jimmy has been right all along? Maybe I should find a good-sized rag, just in case.

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