Friday, March 20, 2015

What My Mother Taught Me About Germs

Because my mother is a trained physician, I always implicitly trusted her attitude about germs. That attitude was decidedly, and I mean DECIDEDLY, lax.

My mom didn't (and I assume still doesn't) believe in the "wet hair" theory of illness, or any weather-based theory of illness. I would come home from swimming practice in high school with my hair in little icicle dreadlocks, and she wouldn't so much as glance up from the rotten chicken she was flushing down the toilet.

You see, that's how my mom cleaned out our refrigerator. Every once in awhile, she'd go through the dubious contents of the fridge and find something particularly foul that needed to be disposed of in a more dramatic way than the regular garbage (in-sink garbage disposals were illegal in New York City at the time--something about the sewer system). She would carry the offending item in its tupperware into the bathroom, dump it into the toilet bowl, turn her head away, and flush.

As you might imagine, more than once this practice resulted in a clogging issue that the superintendent of our apartment building was called upon to fix. He was an old-world, elderly Muslim man from Turkey who went by "Alex," although I believe this was an Anglo-fied version of his real name. He was too reserved and old fashioned to address (much less chastise) my mother directly. Instead, he would turn to my father and shake a bony finger and say, "You tell Mrs. no flush chicken bones down toilet!" That worked fine, until the next time when she decided to flush some old sushi down the toilet instead. What. Alex didn't say anything about sushi!

This is a woman who once ate a piece of pepperoni pizza that fell face-down on the floor of Newark Airport (International Departures Lounge). It was only on the ground for a few seconds, she said. This is also a woman who once peed in our kitchen sink. She was rushing out the door to a meeting, before the era of cordless phones. We got a phone call on our kitchen phone and she picked it up and began speaking to whomever it was. Being ten minutes late for anything is totally unacceptable to my mother, and she had to pee. So the logical solution was to cradle the phone in her neck, climb up on the counter, pull down her nylons and panties underneath her skirt, straddle the kitchen sink, and take a leak right there. I mean, there was no time to hang up and use the bathroom, obviously! Don't worry, she assured me. Urine is sterile.

So I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise that I'll drink out of anyone's glass, eschew paper toilet cover seats, and follow the "five second rule" for almost anything edible that falls on the floor. "Germs keep us healthy! They're our friends!" I can hear my mother advising cheerfully in her heavy Bronx accent. "As long as you wash your hands after you take a shit, everything will be fine!" 

Yes, I hear my mother's voice almost every time I let my children do something completely disgusting. And--knock on wood--she's been right so far. We rarely get sick!

1 comment:

  1. This is my mother! I won't admit how similar I am. I like the paper toilet seat covers, though, thank you.


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