In yet another example of a half-assed attempt at something that ended up as a half ass (or as our European cousins prefer “an ‘alf arse”), here’s part 2 of a professional meeting series, this time about hygiene hijinks. On with the show …
So there we were sitting at an evening dining event during an association conference sharing small talk with others at the table that knew just as much as we did that small talk is an inane activity to avoid the horror of awkward silence. Yeah, so, we really didn’t care what they had to say. They most definitely didn’t care what we had to say since we pretty much kept our commentary to the food in front of us. We were doing most of the talking and we were boring ourselves to tears, which is rare since we like hearing ourselves talk. The unvoiced complicity in this game of forced social interaction left us bitter later that night as we hunted around the dial in our hotel room looking for something worth watching, hoping we could avoid the same routine at breakfast (good luck with that, right?).
Then, the cough. The sickening sickly cough. See, here’s where it gets stupid. A common courtesy in a social setting is to cover one’s mouth while coughing. The righteous way of doing it is to cough into the crook of one’s elbow. Why? Because it concentrates the germs that spew forth into an area of the body that is unlikely to be touched by another party (unless she’s drunk and invading one’s personal space at the bar or one folds one’s arms during a presentation thereby stuffing otherwise unfettered hands into the maw of doom). But, coughing in such a manner doesn’t look particularly couth. So, what’s the common practice? Coughing into one’s hand. And what’s even stupider about that? Most people cough into there dominant hand. Yeah, the one that one uses to shake (another icky cultural social habit among Westerners (those damn germ-phobic Japanese have it right – bowing is sick! (sick in the good, slang sense of the word, not sick in the medical sense))) (did we get the right number of closing parentheses … dammit where were we?) … another’s hand as a form of greeting and farewell.
So, cough, cough. Cough. Into the bloody hand millions of wet festering germs went. Later, said individual made the rounds bidding adieu for the evening, guaranteeing that the microbial monsters teeming on his paw were being transferred at each exchange to unsuspecting buffoons. Many of them probably woke up with sore throats, coughed a bunch themselves, and then get onto their respective flights to take the unseen nasties home to their spouses, lovers, and cats (although cross-species contamination is rare, thankfully; however, when it happens, big name Hollywood actors make movies about it, garner a load of our cash, and continue to live their bloated, self-centered lives at our willing expense — did you just hear a butterfly flutter?).
If you’re still alive, go wash your hands after you finish reading this cautionary post.
And, in case you doubt our suggested (nay, demanded!) method for dealing with a cough, here’s Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius telling a reporter to cover up properly for a similarly vile event called sternutation (which is the formal way of saying sneezing – there you learned something else today).