The Neighbor and His Germs

My doorbell rang. I should say buzzed. It’s the kind of sound that pierces the eardrums and makes your heart skip a beat. Just ask my noise sensitive husband. He’ll tell you.

I stared at the front door for a moment wondering who would be calling at that time of night. Kalispell folds up fairly early in winter and unless you are attending a meeting of some kind you’re usually hunkered down shortly after dark.

I opened the door, and it was my neighbor. He doesn’t talk to us very much. In fact he ignores us most of the time. I’ve concluded it’s because we’re from the south and he doesn’t care for non-natives. Perhaps he’ll clear this up for me one day, so I won‘t continue jumping to conclusions. I prefer straight shooters and even though the truth may hurt, I want to know it.

As soon as I opened the door he began to thank me for the good deed that I had done for my neighbor across the street. He spoke of the awful virus she was suffering from and how the hospital had refused her admittance. “She is contagious,” they said.

He explained that he was taking care of her and that I shouldn’t get too close to him because he would probably come down with it too. He warned me that if I got diarrhea, then I would know that I had caught it; the virus that is.

The whole time he spoke, I was trying to think of what neighborly gesture I had done to make him come and personally thank me. I concluded it was for taking care of Kitty, the stray cat that turned up last fall. That didn’t make sense though, and he probably thought that I had shoveled my neighbor’s walk. He was talking and going down the steps at the same time, and I didn‘t get a word in edgewise before he was on his way.

I felt like a creep, but after he left I warned my family not to touch the doorbell until I could sanitize it with Lysol and Clorox wipes. I didn’t have any in the house and went to Walmart a couple of days later to buy some.  As I was battling the bacteria on the doorbell, I thought, “how absurd”.

No one did this kind of stuff when I was a kid. We were much less germ conscious. We weren’t scared to lick the cake batter for fear of salmonella from raw eggs. Nobody coughed into their elbow to be polite.  And we didn’t use germ-x like it was hand lotion. We took our chances and spread our disgusting germs on everything we touched and wherever we went.

We also did the unspeakable act of licking our fingers after wiping them across seasoned raw chicken. It was a tasty thing to do before Mom put the chicken in the oven or Dad put it on the grill. I would have a hissy fit over that now!  And I highly recommend you don’t try it unless you want to have a miserable night suffering from food poisoning.


Lysol and Clorox ready to do battle.


Sure, I think it’s good practice to have cleanliness and avoid trouble.  I mean, who wants to get sick. I carry hand sanitizer in my purse and after washing my hands in public restrooms, I open the door with a paper towel.

Nonetheless, I find myself in situations that I cannot avoid.

For example, the cashier, who checked me out at Home Depot recently, told me all about the stubborn cough she couldn’t get rid of. I held my breath as she spoke. But I must say, the worst experience came at WalMart. I call it “the grossest transaction of the season”. After blowing her nose and rubbing it with a snotty tissue, the cashier bagged my stuff and handed me the receipt. I don’t think she gave it a second thought.

I did.

Although I sincerely appreciate my neighbor’s courtesy in telling me not to get too close, I realize that we simply cannot avoid other human beings unless one chooses to live as Howard Hughes. Which for me, is an undesirable thought.

I do not think we are going to rid the planet of microbes any time soon, so my choice is to peacefully coexist with the germs.  And anticipate wellness.  We may not avoid every bug that comes along, but I believe that a positive attitude, and thinking well, plays a major role in one’s overall health.


As a follow up to my feeling guilty for not doing whatever my neighbor thought I did, I gave penance by shoveling his walk two days later. Also, I am a firm believer that if we knew everyone’s personal story, we would have a greater understanding of their behavior and why they treat us – or ignore us – the way they do.

Think well everyone. It’s only 45 days till spring.


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