It all began when I washed my hands with the hand sanitizer they use at the city library where my wife, Sue, works.
I’ve marveled at this miracle of modern science. I can get ink all over my hands—they used to call newspaper guys “ink-stained wretches”—squirt a little of this sweet smelling goo on them and rub them together like Mr. Burns on “The Simpsons.”
And, presto, clean hands!
But something has always bothered me. Where does the dirt go? Does it go into the air? Wouldn’t the EPA object?
Does it shrink and go through our pores into the bloodstream where it collects like cholesterol?
If I’m going to cholesterolize myself I want to do it with a chicken fried steak, not dirt.
So I came back to my office and wrote a column about it, chuckling to myself. I was particularly proud of the chicken fried steak line.
Since she was in it, I carried a copy of the column down to the library for Sue to censor, edit, uh, look at.
I often do this. She usually says something like “neat”, “that was funny” or “your shoe is untied.”
She read it and that look came on her face. Okay, couples, you’ve all seen it. It’s the “I’m doing this for my spouse but I feel like I just walked through a chicken coop and stepped in something” look.
“That was funny,” she said, without expression, handing it back to me.
Uh-oh. I waited for the rest of the story. Because I knew there was a rest of the story. Married Guy 101: First word of the rest of the story always begins with “but.”
“But,” she said. Told-ya!
“This stuff doesn’t clean your hands, it sanitizes them. There’s a difference.”
And, foolishly, I asked her to explain what the difference is.
“Cleaning gets rid of the dirt,” she said, adopting her “I’m a kindergarten teacher explaining something painfully obvious” tone. “Sanitizing gets rid of the germs. Sanitzer makes it where you won’t get sick. Soap actually gets rid of the dirt.”
So, I wanted to know, why does the dirt disappear?
“It doesn’t disappear, you just can’t see it.”
Yeah, I know, I’ve read that sentence 33 times too and it still says that.
So we have invisible dirt and my hands are still dirty?
“Yes, the dirt is still on your hands but the germs are gone. You still need to wash your hands with soap to get rid of the actual dirt.”
So what I’ve got left after using the sanitizer is clean dirt?
“That’s right, you’ve got clean dirt.”
I knew this was an argument I wasn’t going to win. In fact, I knew this was going to be an argument where I wasn’t even going to get to argue.
I mumbled something about how pretty her hair looked and retreated, uh walked back to my office.
On the way my recently sanitized hands started to feel icky and unclean.
I stopped in the restroom and scrubbed them with Lava soap, an SOS pad and some kerosene.
Then I threw the column away and sat down at my computer.
And the point? Just this.
You know every once in a while you have to fill out forms and you come to these little “marital status” check boxes where you say if you’re single or married?
I propose a revision, thusly: ð Single ð Married
ð Boy, am I married!
I know which one I’m checking.