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Cleanliness has always been a big concern of mine. As long as I can remember, I have been cautious to how dirty and contaminated things are. Perhaps the reason I am germophobic is only because I am more “informed” on how easily these germs spread and their negative effects on the body. Or it could be that my mom and older sister are germophobic as well. Either way, this has caused me to be careful of touching normal things like hallway railings, doorknobs, and desks; these items are usually highly concentrated with a variety of bacteria. This germophobia has also led me to be a neat freak. Even when it comes to schoolwork, things need to be in order and organized at all times.
There are two main types of germs, microorganisms and viruses.
Microorganisms are the most common. They include bacteria, fungi, and even animals such as plankton. These microorganisms can grow at very fast rates, and do not need any host organisms to reproduce. Viruses, on the other hand, infect the cellular life. They need host organisms to grow and reproduce. In any case, germs are responsible for basically any human sickness or disease. They are behind every fever, runny nose, cold, or cough.
Germs can spread very easily from person to person. Every time someone coughs or sneezes, they deposit microscopic germs into the air. The germs then land on the nose or mouth of another person, or land on almost any surface. This spreads the infection, contaminating everything. Many of these germs can remain airborne; making it extremely easy to transfer from person to person. Some forms of germs
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can even live for hours on things like desks, tables and doorknobs. All of these aspects contribute to how cautious I am to dirty, contaminated things.
The most commonly overlooked way of preventing germs is washing your hands. Most people wash their hands infrequently, or incorrectly. You might say this sounds ridiculous, and it is so simple to wash your hands; however, it is not. In order for antibacterial soap to take effect, it must have more then the usual 5 seconds of scrubbing action. It takes more like 20 seconds to thoroughly disinfect your hands. It is said that singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice is ample time to wash your
hands. Also, using warm or hot water as opposed to cold water can prove to be beneficial. These few pieces of knowledge can majorly help prevent sickness.
When it comes to schoolwork in particular, I know that I cannot focus until my room, and workspace is clean. Every time I sit down to study, I wipe down my work area, and make sure that my room is organized. All clothes must be hung up, and everything must be put away in its proper place or I find myself to focus on these things rather then the work I am trying to accomplish. Sometimes, this impedes my studies because if my roommate has made a mess, I find myself cleaning before working, which can take a long time.
When given the assignment to visit an alien culture, I knew exactly what would take me out of my element. In order to get out of my clean apartment and visit an alien culture, I began looking for people who were “dirty.” I decided to ask
some friends about their cleaning habits. I found that one of my friend’s, Steve,
thinks I am crazy for my germophobia, and obsession with cleanliness and he says
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none of this extra caution to germs is necessary. Steve lives upstairs in my apartment building, so I went to his room, and I was astonished by what I found.
Steve’s room was pigsty. Garbage, clothes, food, papers, and almost anything else you can think of was scattered across his floor. The bathroom was worse then I could ever imagine. There were hair clippings, tissues, clothes, and razor blades everywhere. Clearly nothing had been cleaned, disinfected, or even touched in a long time. The first thing that came to my mind was “I could never live like this, how can anyone live like this?”
I explained to him my assignment, and my reasoning and I asked if he would let me do some work in his room for an hour or so. He didn’t mind at all, so I prepared myself to try and do some work in this unbelievable mess. Before I could do any work, I had to find a place to actually do it! I asked him for some guidance on this issue, and he said he does all his work in his bed. I sat on his bed and began trying to work.
Observing all that was in the room was just making it worse. I started to think about how the sheets probably have never been changed, and how unsanitary the entire room was. I began to feel dirty and disgusting. My mind could not focus on the work at hand; just the dirty bed, and dirty room I was in. After sitting there for an hour, I accomplished a fraction of what I could have accomplished in a clean setting. There was no way I was accomplishing anything in this environment. I attempted to go use the bathroom, and even that was a process for me. The bathroom was worse then almost any bathroom I have ever been in. After
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contemplation, I decided to not use this bathroom and just wait to go back to my room.
After I packed up my stuff, I spoke to Steve for a little. I told him about how living in such an environment can be really unhealthy, and how much more prone he is to getting sick. Steve didn’t deny this; it just didn’t bother him enough to do something about it. One of his responses to me was “I shower often.” He views this as enough to be clean, and he is satisfied with this solution. I think that there is no point in a shower when you just walk right back into the bacteria infested environment, but that’s what made this an alien experience for me.
Experiencing Steve’s room, even for a little while, confirmed all preconceived notions that I had about a lifestyle like this. The laundry everywhere, and garbage all over was extremely distracting. I was completely shocked at how anyone can live like this. While trying to accomplish some studying in that setting, I was completely unsuccessful. My mind just could not focus on anything but how unsanitary everything was.
This experience has caused me to maintain my current clean lifestyle, and proved I could not live any other way. Right after I left Steve’s room, I went back to
my room, showered and finally accomplished some work. I will never let my environment become a mess like that, and I will always do my best to keep my surroundings as clean as possible.
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It is easy to see the difference in cleanliness between my room and Steve’s room.