It can’t be news to anyone that the world is not only a very dangerous place, it’s also very dirty. And by ‘dirty’, I mean, of course, ‘full of germs’.
There was a story in the newspaper recently that said that children should be allowed to crawl around on the ground on the basis that this would allow them to build up immunity to illnesses. I believe the notion of ‘let them eat dirt’ was floated, though I may have been hallucinating that bit on account of the fact that I was so incredibly repulsed by the time I got to the end of the first paragraph.
“You know, it might have do you some good to be a little less precious!” Saffy said to me when I told her about the article. We were at the airport waiting for our flight to Bali. In front of us, an Australian couple was watching their toddler crawl around on the carpet of the departure lounge. “We all need a bit of germs, otherwise we’d be living in a bubble!”
It was like watching a horror movie. “But Saf,” I whispered, “I get the idea of rolling around on the grass or…or…walking bare-feet through mud, not that I would ever do that, but that kid is sticking his face into the exact spot where that guy was standing and just five minutes ago, he was standing in a puddle of pee in the toilet!”
Saffy was impressed. “And you know this because…”
“Five minutes ago, I was standing next to him in the loo looking down and wondering why he couldn’t see that he was standing in a puddle of pee!”
Saffy looked put out. “Men are so disgusting!” she announced even as she suddenly spotted another waiting male passenger a few seats away calmly picking his nose.
“You know, suddenly, I don’t feel so well,” she told me.
“Just wait till we get on-board,” I replied.
So, here’s the thing about planes. All those soft-focus airline commercials of beautiful, happy passengers in slow motion striding through an airport, dashing captains, smiling stewardesses serving bubbling champagne, and shots of gorgeously made up passengers gently falling into white linen and fluffy pillows while the ambient lighting dims? It’s all a farce.
What they don’t show is me in seat 35J whipping out a packet of Dettol antiseptic wipes (‘Kills 99.9% of germs’, it says on the packet, though I remain disturbed by the 0.1% of germs that survive). I diligently wipe down the armrest, the TV screen, and the remote control.
Then, I take out a large cloth from my bag and drape it neatly over the back of my chair, including the headrest.
Saffy stood in the aisle, causing a minor traffic jam behind her and looked at me, her awesome bosom slowly trembling.
“Seriously? The headrest?”
“Do you know how many unwashed heads rest on these things? And who knows where those heads have been resting on before they got on-board?”
By the suddenly glint in Saffy’s eyes, you could tell she’d never thought about it. “But surely, they change these white flappy head cloths…” She trailed off.
“In Business and First Class maybe, but you really think our $185 economy ticket covers the cost of that level of housekeeping?” I said sitting down. I pulled out another sheet of Dettol and began scrubbing the seat-belt buckle.
Meanwhile, the Australian couple settled down in the row across the aisle from us. The baby was propped up against his mother. He began drooling onto the white headrest cloth.
“You know, if I could,” I said as I gave my TV screen one last swipe, “I would pack one of those hand-held Hoovers and give this plane a good dusting.”
Saffy later told Sharyn that she had started the holiday with a normal, well adjusted attitude towards germs in general, but by the time I’d finished telling her about the germ levels in your average plane toilet and the cabin crew had started their in-flight safety demonstration, all she could think of why nobody was talking about the last time the back-seat flip-down trays had been cleaned.
“These things are the filthiest! They’re never cleaned,” I told Saffy as I handed her a Dettol wipe and watched with approval as she gave her tray a vigorous wipe. “Don’t forget the edges and the lever.”
When Saffy turned the wipe over, it was grey with a sprinkling of black bits. “Aiyoh,” Sharyn said. “How to be so clean? One day you have children, then how?”
I’m amazed that Sharyn has never wondered why I’ve never visited her home.