Mysophobia – Fear of Germs

"Wash Your Hands Often" - NARA - 514291

“Wash Your Hands Often” – NARA – 514291 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Have you ever known someone who had an extreme fear of germs?  Possibly, you know one who washes his hands compulsively, hates to be in public places where numerous people share objects (for example, libraries), dislikes eating food he didn’t cook, or refuses to shake hands with others.  Such a person is said to have mysophobia, a fear of germs.

Compulsive Hand Washing

I can relate to mysophobia because I consider myself to be mysophobic to an intermediate degree.  I am a compulsive hand washer.  Every little thing I do that may moisten or soil my hands in the littlest ways, I have to wash them immediately afterwards.  In fact, up until now, I loved antibacterial soaps until I heard they aren’t all they are cracked up to be.  Since I wash my hands several times a day, they feel overly dry, too warm, and a little coarse.  Maybe I should use hand moisteners instead.

It is mostly when I eat or handle food that I must wash my hands.  Every time I go out to a restaurant, I have to wash my hands before and after I eat.  Not only to destroy the potential of spreading salmonella bacteria, but to rid myself of the annoyance from soiled or greasy hands.  It makes me feel so unclean and like…gross.

What bothers me is when people eat then handle everyday objects without washing their hands.  Even though their hands might be perfectly dry, they’re spreading food bacteria onto things steering wheels, remote controls, door knobs, furniture, cell phones, computer equipment, and every other thing they fidget with.  I try to avoid doing this whenever possible.

Then there’s the real biter: not washing your hands after going to the bathroom.  I’m sure you’ve all seen people taking dumps in public restrooms and walking out like nothing happened.  C’mon people, what the hell is the matter with you?  How hard could it be to turn on a faucet and scrub your hands with soap and dry them off afterwards?  It only takes a minute or two!  To each his own!

Just think, the meal you order next time you eat out could have been cooked by someone who’s done this?  So much for the: “Attention all employees!  Wash your hands.  Dirty hands spread diseases.” signs.  They might as well be wall hangings as far as I’m concerned.

I guess that’s why they say, what you don’t know can’t hurt you.

Finally, what is really bothersome is having stinky hands, but no access to a sink.  I would go absolutely bonkers if I walked around or even lied in bed with sweaty or smelly hands.  It would totally distract me.  I wouldn’t even touch my remotes.  I could never get involved in any activity or even watch TV knowing that my hands were extremely unsanitary.  I wouldn’t even want to talk to others all the while.

And most of all…when I’m in public I always would like to wash my hands.  I hate sinks that don’t work, especially the motion detector type faucets that refuse to restart, making you try another one.  Restrooms without soap are just as bad.  Worse is when people who use the public restrooms trash them.  I just have a fetish about washing my hands and if I can’t find a sink, I’ll get upset.

Going to Other Peoples’ Houses

I often dread going to into other peoples’ homes if I don’t know whether they’re clean or not.  With people I know, that’s fine, but those houses I’ve never been to before, I must approach with caution.  I don’t mind clutter such as scattered books or papers so much but what I hate is odors and dirt stains, especially from pets.

Also, I dislike sitting on other peoples’ upholstered couches and chairs, especially if they’re smelly or soiled.  Leather furniture is best since it is nonabsorbent.

Having dinner at someone else’s house turns me off, unless I know them.  I hate to eat something not knowing if it’s cold or if it was cooked under unsanitary conditions.  When I am invited out, I’ll just try to ignore my fear and eat there anyway, but still, I’d rather hit a restaurant instead.  If I must eat over, I’ll come out and ask to use the microwave and usually people don’t think I’m a pain in the neck for doing so.

The worst I’ve seen is when someone leaves plates of food on coffee tables for hours or perhaps overnight.  I’ll turn my nose up to dirty countertops and tables.  Dirty microwaves are spooky too.  Piles of dirty dishes in sinks, especially if they’re partly submerged in murky water, makes me want to lose it.  If I see pieces of food and wrappers or food containers with light remains of sauce in them lying around, I’m like out of there!  I don’t care if I have to be rude.  I WON’T TOLERATE IT!  I hate lingering food odors.

Public Places

Of course there are numerous public places as shopping malls, libraries, airports, schools, and facilities that provide various types of equipment for use by the general public.  Job seeking agencies enable unemployed individuals to come in and use their computers while libraries offer books, CDs, DVDs, and computers for those who want to spend an hour online.

Most of the time, this equipment is a bit tattered and maybe abused.  Using public electronics is a big turn off, especially since you can never tell who has handled it and how dirty their hands were.  This is especially true of ATMs and pay phones.  All you can do is pray that the computer’s keyboards and mice are fairly clean and maybe you can bring some sanitary wipe cloths or rubbing alcohol just in case.

Hotels often receive a bad rap.  Along with TV remotes, the bed spreads are really unsanitary.  You never know was doing what on your comforter before you came; maybe a mother was changing her baby’s diapers.  Obviously, they’re not washed as often as the bed sheets.

Shaking hands with people you meet can seem creepy.  Likewise, you never know how clean their hands are and what they handled since they last washed them.  Still, I feel it is rude to refuse to shake hands, though I sometimes think of it as an unsanitary gesture.

Still, there’s another thing that’s extremely unsanitary: money.   As for dollar bills and coins, you don’t know how old they are and how many hundreds or thousands of hands handled them.  Some coins are found in dirty places like on floors or the ground.  However, when it comes to cash, we’re so happy to have it that we never stop to think about how unclean it really is.

Keeping My House Sanitary

I spend a great part of my time keeping my house sanitary.  When I watch TV in our den, I want to make sure that the chair I am sitting on doesn’t have any fowl odor.  Therefore, I keep a bottle of Lysol to freshen it up.  I just can’t pay attention to what I’m watching if I don’t even do anything about the slight odor.  I’m just can’t sit still until the room smells fresh.

Some days, I’ll wipe the remotes off with a soft dry cloth and rubbing alcohol.  I never eat in there.  I heard that the dirtiest things you can touch are remote controls.  Believe it or not, they’re more unsanitary than a flushed toilet.

My computer system is also my private domain.  I never eat while sitting at my computer because I would hate to put my moist, greasy fingers on the keyboard and mouse.  I keep them clean too.  Even the sight of fingerprints on smooth surfaces makes me think of germs.  Speaking of fingerprints, iPads and tablets have a nasty way of showing fingerprints.

Finally are my counter tops and tables.  If I see a food stain, crumbs, or a spot of food, I have to clean it off immediately.  Like some people are driven crazy by a slightly crooked picture on the wall, I can’t tolerate crumbs or spots.  I use a clean dish rag every day.

I mop the floor in my kitchen at least twice a week because I can’t stand to have my feet stick to the floor.  Once I find even the smallest stains, I have to wash the floor promptly.  Never would I let a dirty floor sit overnight.

Please Comment

If there are little things that drive you crazy, I would like to know about them too.  A few minutes of your time greatly attribute to my success on WordPress.

OTHER ARTICLES:

Atelophobia – Fear of Imperfection

Technophobia – Fear of Technology

The Myths of a Compulsive Shopper

People That Eat Too Fast

Those Who Are the Center of Attention

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I Hate Overly Long CDs

Cover of "Saturday Nights"

Cover of Saturday Nights

Growing up in the 1970s I used to listen to a countless number of records.  That’s the time when albums were short and sweet.  Almost all albums we had consisted of well-crafted songs that you would never suspect were made just to help fill up an album.

Songs on the more finely made albums seemed to have a common theme, like they all were meant to fit together.  For example, Elton John’s 1970s albums such as Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only the Piano Player, Honky Chateau, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Captain Fantastic, etc. each seemed to have their own unique setting, uniformity, or subject matter.   Hence, a song from Don’t Shoot Me… wouldn’t seem appropriate if it were on Honky Chateau or vice-verso.

Many artists’ albums seem to have their own theme as well. That’s the way I saw it anyway.  Maybe that was my imagination.

The Thrill of Buying an Album Disappeared

Buying or receiving record albums as gifts was such a thrill back in my teens.    Whenever I’d see a thin, square-foot item wrapped up with my name on it, or even just in a plain, brown, shopping bag, it was obviously a record.    When shopping for an album, especially a big seller, it seemed like I just had to have that album, as if it would change my life drastically for the better. If I didn’t get it right away, it was like, I never will in my whole lifetime.  I couldn’t wait to tear it open and play it.  And it was like I didn’t want to wait to hear it any longer than I had to.

During my teens, I spent a lot of time listening to records.  I liked music so much that I drove my siblings, mother, and friends crazy.  Yes, my brothers and sisters would razz me about the excited behavior I would display when getting an album.  Not only was listening to an LP fun, but checking out the artwork. Sometimes an LP would have a pleasant unique smell of its own, as if it was the cardboard or the inks used to make the pictures.  Following along with the lyrics was great, especially when you come upon a line that made you stop and say, “Is that what they’re saying there?”

Now, it is no big deal.  Why?  I feel this was a thrill I’ve outgrown.  Today, an album is just an album and you have to have some patience and open-mindedness to get to enjoy it.  No album will ever change my life, no matter how good it is.

LP’s Once Dictated an Album’s Content

Before 1985, most albums were still predominantly available on LP.  As we all know, the typical record holds up to 45 minutes worth of music or less, but sometimes a little more.  While some albums had as little as 28 minutes, the average I would say was between 33 and 36 minutes in length.

In the days of LPs, each artist had to have enough songs to fill whole disks-either produce a single album or a double album, but not an album and a half.  On some releases, a band might have had about an hour’s worth of songs, which was too many for one album and not enough for two.  Either the artists must ditch a few these songs or create more to fill a second disk.

When mixing greatest hits albums, the limitation of the LP created difficulties for some artists. For the more popular bands, a single album was barely long enough for all the material they wanted to include, but a double album was like, so long that they would have to throw in extra songs from somewhere just to fill it up.  Buying a 2 record set often meant paying almost twice as much as a single album, and the higher cost alone may lose many fans’ interest.  Therefore, many greatest hits releases crammed in almost an hour’s worth of music onto one LP, causing them to omit tracks and/or make shorter versions of their popular hits.

I could think of a few albums where time was a limitation.  For example, when Led Zeppelin released In Through the Out Door in 1979, the group had to leave out some songs.  Those excluded songs appear on their much later Coda album.  That same year, the Eagles released The Long Run which they wanted to be a double-album, but did not have enough songs.

Still, somehow, Deep Purple managed to make their release: The Deepest Purple (a greatest hits album) that clocks in at almost 64 minutes.  This was a single LP of 12 songs that held over an hour’s worth of music.  I never thought they could fit that much music on a single LP.  Add an extra three minute track to the Deepest Purple album and it will have a total running time similar to the Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main Street album (approx 66 min on a double LP set).  Strange huh?

Since the late 1980s, albums have expanded greatly in length.  Since the LP was dismissed, artists were free from its time limitations, especially since cassettes and CDs could hold more material.  Now, an album could be any arbitrary time length and can include exactly as many songs as the band chooses without major time restraints.  Still, this is not necessarily more entertaining for music listeners.

Short Albums Vs. Long Albums

However, the shorter albums had one little downfall: once a side of an album ended, it was time to flip it over.  Although each side typically held 15 to 25 minutes of music, the music seemed to last only a few minutes.  That meant that a listener had to stop whatever he/she was doing and flip the LP or tape over and continue playing the other side.  What an inconvenience that was.  Those who had record changers could listen to six albums at once, but before the days of auto reverse cassette decks, tape listeners had to stop to reload their players.

Over the last three decades, rock music has phased out as it has been replaced by R & B, rap, alternative, heavy metal, etc.  Without the restrictions of the LP, artists have been free to make their albums as long as they desired.  Since the 1990s longer albums have become a popular trend amongst musicians.  Hence, single albums over 25 years ago usually contained 8 to 12 songs, rarely ever more.  Now a typical album rarely contains less than 15 tracks and has an average playing time of 50 to 70 minutes.

Modern-day, long albums usually suck.  Just listening to one band play for over an hour becomes monotonous.  Trying to listen to some of these albums (or CDs), all in one sitting can seem to be torturous.  It’s like, if you want me to listen to an entire album you’ll have to tie me down to a chair.  The total material on some of these newer albums seems to be watered down and extra long.  When it comes to content, more is not necessarily better.

On the other hand, when you’re playing a game, working on a project, doing chores around the house, or what have you, you’re so focused on what you’re doing that you’re less likely to pay total attention to the music.  While that may seem to be OK with old albums, that still doesn’t justify the boredom and monotony of newer releases.  Instead of well-crafted tunes, some of these post 1990 albums contain some songs that were haphazardly thrown together with mediocre melodies and excessive instrumentation.  Even though you’re really busy, this music will tend to drive you nuts sooner or later.

Examples of Over-Long Albums

I don’t like to do any finger-pointing to upset my readers, but I feel the need to provide some examples.  In 2008 I purchased the Counting Crows Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings CD which rambled on for about an hour.  Toooooooooooo long.  Don’t get me wrong, I like the Counting Crows, but this album didn’t measure up to their earlier material.  I could never listen to that whole album in one sitting.  That’s just mental torture.

What’s with all these long albums anyway?  Does one musician make them just because all the others are doing it?  Are record companies motivating their bands to make long albums?  Is there a specific ploy somewhere that an album must contain over 55 minutes of music (if that’s what you wanna call it)?

Along with long albums in the early 1990s came another silly perk: 10 minutes of silence.  That means right before the last track begins, there is a long period of nothing, no sound at all.  I’ve had two CDs with this nifty little feature: Nirvana’s Nevermind and Cracker’s Kerosene Hat.  OK, I get to what I thought was the last song and instead of stopping, the CD continues spinning on and on.  Did the CD player not know the CD was over or is something wrong with the disk itself?

So I inserted Kerosene Hat into my portable CD player.  It gave me a listing of 99 tracks at 72 minutes and 51 seconds.  What?  Ninety-nine tracks?  Its label only says 15 as songs 13 and 14 are silent.  Whew, this CD has almost 73 minutes of music on it, but what’s with the 99 tracks?  Actually, there are only 62 minutes of material here, but that is still long.

What’s with the 10-minute silence before the last track?  Apparently, this has been done on other releases from the early to mid 1990s.  It’s just one of those perks that tells the listener something like, “Hey, there’s a hidden track at the end of the CD.  If you’re patient enough to wait for it, you’ll get to hear it.”  So what do you do during these 10 minutes?   Well, you can flick the track advance buttons or play something else in the background as you wait.

It’s like saying, there’s an extra room linked to your house that you may not know about.  The only catch is, you have to walk 10 miles underground to get to it.

OK, I could have made this post 10,000 words long but I didn’t.  I could have included a lot of petty details about excessively long albums and rambled aimlessly, repeating myself.  Would that make this article more interesting?  Absolutely not!  Who wants to read a ten page insert whose subject matter could be covered in two?  Nobody!  That’s how I feel about overly long albums.

Legally Blind – Part 2: Four Eyes

The expression "four eyes" may have come from the thick black-framed glasses.

The expression “four eyes” may have come from the thick black-framed glasses.

This is continuation of my post: Legally Blind – Part 1: How It Affects Me  If you haven’t read it yet, please do, before reading this post.

Hey There “Four Eyes

As long as grade schools existed, there would always be one kid out of so many that had to wear thick-framed glasses all of the time. As you all know, these were the “four eyes.”  Many of them got picked on because they wore stupid looking, heavy framed glasses.  Yes indeed, I was one of them.  Up to 7th grade, I wore plastic rimmed glasses all the time.  I can still picture the black-rimmed glasses that some wore back in the 1960s.

Every elementary and high school has 3 types of kids: 1) the “different” kids – those with some mental or physical defect, 2) the bullies, and 3) the more fortunate, innocent, normal kids.  As you may have guessed, I fell into the first category.  My constantly moving eyes and my near-sightedness not only limited my vision, but caused me to develop weird mannerisms that made me seem inferior to others.  Such mannerisms were in the way I walked, the way I had to hold reading materials close to my face, and the way I had to get extremely close to objects (such as electronics) to read them.  Also, I need to turn small printed materials sideways to decipher the tiny printed alphanumeric characters.

I was teased a lot and thought of as being mentally retarded.  Kids would ask me things like “How many fingers am I holding up?”  I could always tell them outright.  Some outright avoided me because I was different and others were sarcastic and mean.  Just by seeing me walk, kids who didn’t know me were sarcastic and told me to watch where I was going.

While in high school, anonymous people would call up my mother and tell her that I definitely needed a seeing-eye dog.  This astounded her.  She could never understand how people could exaggerate my visual condition.  The SSDBVI constantly called us and sent me mail.  She felt they were “making a mountain out of a molehill”, but on the flip side, between all 8 schools in our district, there were only very few of us “blind” students, so this agency had to do keep busy with us to continue operating.

During my high-school years, I was one of those kids that stood out from the rest in my own ways.  People would razz or question me about my eyesight.  They were not so cruel, but became casual acquaintances.  I wonder if my visual impairment in an odd way attracted their attention towards me.  Some would call me Cylon after the Battlestar Galactica TV series while others called me “stigmite.”  I took no offense to these names.  In fact I got a charge out of them.

Because of my vision, sometimes I fell into the “disabled” group.  Com-on, I’m not disabled, I can walk and get around like everyone else.  The word “disabled” was degrading and by no means wanted to be a part of that group.  I wouldn’t need special services if only I was granted with a little luck and a secure job.

How My Visual Impairment Became My Biggest Asset

Even though I got teased and hassled a lot, couldn’t do certain things others could, and had a hard time finding a decent job, my visual impairment which was once a liability, turned into a great asset.

In the past decade, I had trouble finding and holding jobs.  Still, I have one tool at my aid: a document that states I was declared legally blind in November of 1968.  Whoa, I was only six years old then.  Whenever I apply for various services, I just send them a copy of it and surely be accepted.

Currently, I live on Social Security Disability because of my (legal) blindness.  I would rather be able to work than to live off federal income.  But due to the bad economy and the recessions we’ve been through, it is best that I receive this.

Still there are certain restrictions with my benefits.  Although I am allowed to work to supplement my income, I cannot make more than $1700 a month.  If I did, my benefits may be reduced or terminated.  Also, in today’s job market, jobs are hard to find and employers are more apt to let workers go with little or no warning, even for the pettiest reasons.  Hence, job security is as poor as it’s ever been.  I just don’t dare to live without my SSI benefits.  Now, jobs around my community are few and far in between, or in neighboring towns 30 miles away.

I feel sorry for unemployed individuals and couples without a disability.  Their only options are to collect unemployment (if they’re eligible) or other public assistance (if they can).  Many of them have been forced out of their homes and some are homeless.  Without my benefits, I would be homeless too.

Still, the greatest benefit of being visually impaired is when people comment that I’ve done a lot for someone that can’t see well.  I’ve had a number of people tell me that.  For one thing, I owned and maintained a home in Minneapolis for 18 years, doing a countless number of repairs myself.  I did electrical wiring, plumbing repairs, painting, etc.  I strive to be as independent as possible and rarely ask for the help of others.  Being recognized for my accomplishments makes me feel good.

Today, I’m a 50-year old bachelor who co-owns a home with my brother.  Because of my home repair experience, he relies on me to do the repairs.  I am confident that our house will be well-maintained and suit us well into the next decade.

Legally Blind – Part 1: How It Affects Me

English: Reading glasses. ‪中文(繁體)‬: 老花眼鏡

English: Reading glasses. ‪中文(繁體)‬: 老花眼鏡 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Legally, I am classified as being blind, though I really am not. I can see everything around me clearly, but when it comes to small print or details, I use a heavy magnifying pair of reading glasses. However, there are times when I attempt to read without using my glasses, because I’m too lazy to put them on. Still, I don’t use a cane, read Braille and I sure don’t need a seeing-eye dog.

Because this story is so long, I broke it up into two posts.

My Visual Condition

Yes, I’ve been born with my visual condition and it has adversely affected me throughout my life. Not only was I born with astigmatism, but nystagmus (constant, involuntary back and forth movement of the eyeballs) too.

Contact lenses are totally out of the question. After several eye exams, they are unable to provide me with regular glasses to correct my vision. Therefore, I have reading glasses only and should not wear them unless I’m reading. For regular site, they make everything look blurry.

My legal blindness prohibits me from getting a driver’s license. You need to be able to read any sign going at 55 miles per hours, which I could never do.
Over the last three decades I considered laser eye surgery. The thought of having the cornea reshaped in my eyes so my vision can be corrected has sounded really good to me. I was excited about the possibility to drive and land a better job. About 3 or 4 times I’ve seen different specialists, each about 5 years apart, but they all told me the same thing: Your eyes cannot be corrected due to nystagmus. If we did, you would have tunnel vision, that’s if we can get your eyes to stay still.

How It Affects My Life

Most every type of task is tougher for me than for the average person. Operating electronics or machinery (until I’m familiar with them) is difficult and takes me a long time to master. Quite often, I would need to put household or office items together that came in kits (for example, chairs, desks, and shelves). Not only was it hard to read the directions, but to sort out all of the parts in different categories so I would know which parts connected with what pieces. Hence, assembling things took me longer than it might take others.

Sometimes reading is difficult. Reading the classified ads in the newspaper is hard, especially deciphering addresses or phone numbers. The Yellow Pages were just as bad. Thanks to the internet, I rarely have to read these things anymore, and if I do, I use heavy magnifying glasses.

Counting money can be difficult for me. I always had difficulties trying to tell nickels and quarters apart. Later I found out that other people had that problem too. Now I can do that without any problem. Sometimes, I have to hold ten, twenty, fifty, or one-hundred dollar bills up close to make sure I’m giving cashiers the correct amount of money.

I grew up in a foster family who liked to fish. Every weekend we would go up to the cabin and spend time out on the lake or down at the canal fishing off shore. I used to hate fishing with a passion. Not only did I rarely catch anything, but I would have a difficult time putting the bait on the hook. Putting on sinkers and bobbers was very hard for me. Stringing a leader onto the end of the line was almost impossible. Often, my fishing line would become tangled and straightening out the mess was extremely impossible. I would get so frustrated that I would scream and curse to the top of my lungs.

To this day, I still hate fishing, unless there are others along willing to help me and we are at a lake that actually has fish in it.

Indeed, I did look quite awkward when handling my fishing pole. I would hold the objects an inch away from my eyes and squint as I tried to put them together. Usually, I would succeed, but only after several minutes or struggling. No doubt, I must have looked pretty foolish.

While in senior high, I received materials from the State Services for the Disabled and Blind and Visually Impaired (SSDBVI) in Minnesota. I didn’t have to apply for them, I just received them automatically. This included a cassette player with audio books, called talking books. They would send me a large print catalog and I would check some of them out. It was just like a standard library including books containing adult language. They also tried to push Braille materials my way, but I didn’t need Braille, nor had sensitive fingers to read it anyway.

All of my adult life I have been unable to drive. I’ve had to depend on others to drive me places, unless there was public transportation handy. Still, I can ride a bike without any problem, especially when I know the area well. Thus, I aim to be as independent as possible and hate having to bother people for rides.

Riding in a car with someone can be extremely difficult. This is true when we both are going somewhere we never been before. For me, seeing most street signs is impossible. Even though I bring a pair of binoculars along, they’re not powerful enough for me to see the street signs. As we approach them, I would struggle to focus in on them and by the time I was close enough, we had already whipped past them.

I would feel so helpless when trying to help the driver find his/her way to our destination. Fortunately, those I ride with are understanding. Still, I can read road maps with the aid of a heavy magnifying glass plus the help of my reading glasses. It just takes me half a minute to put on my glasses, grab the map, and fetch the magnifying glass.

For more, see next post.