Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wisdom of the Germaphobe

Phil in Purchasing. Yes we made fun of him, washing his hands all the time, making sure to not touch his face. But there was also envy: the awards for perfect attendance, never taking a sick day. We never saw him cough or sneeze.

“It’s like he’s not human,” speculated Tilmon from IT. “Maybe he’s an officebot. Maybe we’re gradually being replaced. Maybe some day we will all be officebots.” He said this smiling dreamily. This was a personal fantasy he often worked into conversations.

I was determined to find out what made Phil germ-proof. I approached his cubicle while he wasn’t there. Yes, the obvious signs of defense were present: the bottle of hand sanitizer. The telephone cleaning wipes to disinfect a common source of germ contact, and the gentle purr of his Fellowes Air Purifier cleansing the air of germs. But was that it?

“Can I help you?” Phil asked quietly behind me.

I was startled. “Phil, I um...” (How could I put it without sounding strange?) “Phil, I want to know how you don’t get sick?” It still sounded strange.

Phil smiled confidently. “Microban.” He said.

I pondered the word. Was this some powerful radiation that he had absorbed from an interstellar meteorite? Was it a top secret experimental government drug that made you immune? I realized I had been talking too much to Tilmon.

“It’s right here,” Phil indicated his keyboard, his mouse, his foot rest. Microban an antimicrobial protection built right into my wrist supports, on my keyboard, and my mouse wrist rest. It’s even on the surface of my footrest. It helps fight germs where germs are mostly found.”

“Did you know an active office worker can touch up to 30 surfaces in a minute—that’s major contamination. Microban prevents a lot of those germs from getting passed on.

Did you know that scientists have found parainfluenza (a germ a little worse than the common cold) on about one-third of office surfaces during the fall? Microban keeps these kinds of germs under control.

“And people like Gus…” we peered over his cubicle wall. On the other side Gus was devouring his Godzilla burger. “…And people like Gus who eat at their desk allow bits of food to drop down into their keyboard, forgotten and left to prosper into a garden of germs and mold—a literal bacteria cafeteria. Did you know keyboards have 400 more times the bacteria than a toilet seat? ” Gus stared at his keyboard with fear.

“Microban and some healthy practices can keep your cube germ free. “

“Phil,” I said, “I’ve been enlightened, thank you” I reached out to shake his hand, then realized my mistake. We bumped fists instead and parted ways.