“A sad soul can kill quicker than a germ.”

John Steinbeck

Just when we thought Texas couldn’t get any worse than Rick Perry and a border that is leaking suspected Mexican terrorists, and tea party enforcers intent on protecting the wasteland, now they’ve got the first human in America with a case of Ebola.

We’ve got people running through the streets of the Internet shouting, “It’s here, Ebola is here, everybody run for your lives. Ebola is here.”

Ebola is not funny. The reaction to Ebola is natural. Ebola is killing thousands of people in West Africa, but one Liberian in Texas isn’t the stuff of an epidemic any more than one Muslim in Dallas is the arrival of ISIS. And if I, the most paranoid germaphobe human in Maine, isn’t panicking, why should you?

But here in Maine, the little things should be confronted, issues that require common sense.


First, my BFF Joe is just getting over a bad case of “something,” just as I recovered from a bad case of something right after the wedding.

We call it something, because we have no name for it. It came with a tickle and then a cough, mild malaise, and then it went away. Neither one of us went to the doctor, because we both have the same doctor and we know what he would say, “Yes, you have ‘something,’ but no, it’s not serious … yet.”

The truth is, something can, at my age, turn into SOMETHING very quickly. And as I am into the sixth month of my incredible new healthy diet and exercise life style, I don’t want “something” to screw it up.

So I’ve returned to the paranoid-fueled protection plan that I embraced in my middle age. Extreme protection.

Joe, like most well-educated, successful people, is practical and scoffs at my alarms. I am here to testify that the hospitals are full of well-educated “practical” people who do the same. I have seen these people leave the stalls in public restrooms, scrub their hands with soap and water, and then exit by touching the door handles with their bare hands! OMG!

A public door handle, anywhere, at a department store, coffee shop, clothing store, monastery, convent, the Pope’s personal bathroom, hospitals, especially hospitals, is crawling with killer microbes. And yet, each day, trillions of people blithely grasp them.


You can’t avoid a public door handle. But most people are too embarrassed to do as I do, use the bottom of my sweatshirt or jacket to open them, or simply wait for someone to exit and then dance inside.

So for these shy folk, I have a tip. With only two fingers, touch the very bottom of the handle, way down there where only the smallest child can reach. Maybe it can’t help, but it can’t hurt.

Danger is everywhere. Have you noticed that when you buy a cup of coffee in your local shop, the barista presses the lid on with his or her bare, ungloved hand? That’s the space where you press your lips to the tiny hole for your sip of coffee. You know where his/her hand has been? Shaking hands and handling the money of that coughing person in front of you.

And then there is the gym. I go to the gym daily to enhance my new healthy lifestyle. Everyone there, myself included, wipes down the equipment with a provided paper towel and liquid from spray bottles. What’s in those bottles? Disinfectant ? It looks like water. You can’t stop Enterovirus D68, the new meme in the neighborhood, with water. So I employ Purell Hand Lotion, a large factory size at home and two pocket bottles for gym.

You may never catch Ebola or Enterovirus 68, but if you don’t heed me, sooner or later you’ll catch “something.”

Now,a new disease effecting mostly children, has reached New England. She, who has returned to teaching, is exposed to children daily. I’ve noticed that lately she’s been clearing her throat quite a bit.

I’ve told her that if she brings something bad into this house, I’m going to go sleep in the car. I can’t make her do it because she owns the car and the house, so I’m stuck.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

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