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home : blogs_old : ability and accountability August 01, 2014

Ability and Accountability
By Richard Haddad, Prescott Valley, AZ
rhaddad@westernnews.com
"[Children] don't remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are."
"Please watch out for each other and love and forgive everybody. It's a good life, enjoy it."

-- Two of my favorite quotes by Jim Henson

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A mysophobe walks into a burger place

 By Richard Haddad

I watch a uniformed fast food restaurant employee come out of the toilet stall and exit without washing his hands. He then started serving food to customers, including my order.

When I first met my wife in high school it didn't take long for her to figure out that I struggled with mysophobia.

Mysophobia is a term used to describe an unreasonable fear of contamination, germs, dirt or filth. This phobia is sometimes referred to as germophobia.

Those who are close to me know that after nearly 30 years of marriage my wife still tolerates my obsessive hand-washing and keeping sterile wipes in my pocket, car, desk or nightstand.

Over the years I have learned to suppress some of the outward behaviors that reflect the dread I feel, but inside I am always keenly aware of where my hands have been, and how long it's been since I washed them.

There are times when I am in a public restroom and I will see someone wash their hands and then open the exit door with a paper towel. This makes me feel a little more normal, but I do this with almost every door or handle in my path.

I carry my own pen in my pocket every day to avoid touching pens in stores. I hold my breath when someone walking by sneezes or coughs. If they are standing near me and I have no imminent escape I stop breathing for as long as I possibly can, and then I'll only suck in the smallest wisp of air from what I deem to be the safest cubic inch of oxygen in the shared space.

I used to joke with friends at church that I was justified in my behavior because of what the Bible teaches in Psalms 24: 3-4, "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands..."

Ok, admittedly there is a little more to that scripture, but I still think clean hands are seraphic. (In full it reads, ...He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.)

The Burger Place

Now, here is what prompted this blog entry. Not long ago I was at a fast food restaurant in Prescott Valley with my family. As I was washing my hands I watched a uniformed employee come out of the toilet stall and exit without washing his hands. Because the bathroom door was swung open I exited at the same time (another mysophobe trick). I watched this teenaged employee go behind the counter and start scooping up fries and placing food orders into bags for waiting customers.

I cannot fully describe how I felt and what was going through my mind about the food my wife and I had just ordered. I immediately informed the manager and received an apology, but the ramifications continue to haunt me.

This week I became aware of a blog campaign by the American Dietetic Association and ConAgra Foods' Home Food Safety program. The campaign is to raise awareness about the seriousness of foodborne illness and to provide solutions for easily and safely handling food.

As you probably guessed, the number one safety measure is proper hand washing. But the key word here is "proper." When done correctly this action can eliminate nearly 50 percent of all cases of foodborne illness. It can also significantly reduce the spread of the common cold and flu.

Many people think they have washed their hands. But unless you are following the 4 guidelines below, you may just be getting them wet. Especially take note of #4 and start watching how others wash their hands, especially people who work at restaurants.

When You Wash:

1. Hands should be washed in warm, soapy water before preparing foods and after handling raw meat, poultry and seafood.

2. Always wash your hands front and back up to your wrists, between fingers and under fingernails.

3. Dry hands with disposable paper towels, clean cloth towels or air dry.

4. Sing two choruses of "Happy Birthday" while you lather up - cleaning your hands for 20 seconds.

Please share these guidelines with your family -- or if you happen to be a fast food restaurant manager in Prescott Valley, please share this with your employees.

Now I will throw in #5:

5. PLEASE repeat 1-4 if you do any of the following:

~ Use the restroom
~ Change a diaper
~ Cough or sneeze
~ Handle garbage, dirty dishes
~ Smoke a cigarette
~ Pet animals
~ Use the phone
~ Touch face, hair, body, other people
~ Touch a cut or sore
~ Clean or touch dirty laundry
~ After switching food prep tasks, such as handling raw meat and then cutting vegetables

For more food safety tips visit: www.homefoodsafety.org

Related Links:
• See more on www.homefoodsafety.org
• CDC: Handwashing: Clean Hands Save Lives

Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Article comment by: Jamie D

When I worked at Red Lobster, my cuticles used to bleed because I washed my hands so often. Every time I walked through the galley I'd wash my hands. Every time I touched my face due to an itch. Every time I used the potty. Every time I touched dirty dishes. You get the jist. I do have to say though, that one reason a lot of people get so sick whenever any little germ comes around, is because we are TOO clean. If you're not exposed to germs ever, your body doesn't get to build an immunity to it, so you get super sick when you do get exposed. People need to find a medium, and not wash their hands so much they bleed... People are gross though, even the ones you'd think would know better. I've worked in a healthcare facility the last couple years and I've complained more than once about a certain person who uses the potty and comes out of the stall and goes straight back to work, and nothing gets done. It's sick and wrong and disgusting and I can't believe she still has a job in the HEALTHCARE industry of all places!

Posted: Monday, June 20, 2011
Article comment by: J C

I have seen myself a sandwich artist in PV blow his nose on a napkin and then wipe down the counter in front of the soda fountain with the same napkin. When i said something to the manager she just blew it off and i left. Called their corp office and never heard anything else about it. Have never been back.

Posted: Monday, June 20, 2011
Article comment by: ethelred the unready

I dunno...............If I were afraid of germs, I would stay out of fast food places.
Number One, ground beef is the most disease-ridden food in America, and
Number Two, fast food places have pretty poor staff ... sanitation is not a priority with them.


Posted: Sunday, June 19, 2011
Article comment by: Mrs. Clean

OK I know some people really do go just a bit over board with the hand washing. you have all of this "antibacterial" hand soap and hand sanitizer, to kill all the lil bad germs, well you also have some "good" germs on your person as well. years ago when I worked at a fast food resteraunt yes I washed my hands all the time and we are suppose to (you know "money" is really fithly!). people that work serving food is suppose to wear hair nets, and serving gloves. I do not see this when I am in resteraunts. and while the one person stateing about no soap in the public bathrooms, what about the MESS left behind from the customer? every bathroom I have gone in public is a mess! why leave some of your toilet paper ont he floor? why leave a water mess on the counter? why leave your paper towells on the floor and counter? AND why let your kids run a muck in the bathroom as well as in a public place? how very rude! your in the bathroom stall doing your bussiness and what happens a kid crawls on the floor into your stall "hi".NOT only that but the kid has a messy nose its crusted and needs to be cleaned, KEEP THEM HOME you can wait to shop or have your spouse watch them while you shop don't spread the germ and wash those noses!

Posted: Saturday, June 18, 2011
Article comment by: germ phobia

I see nothing wrong with Mr Haddad's behavior.Hygiene is out the window. I've seen women in a hair salon not even take the time to flush the commode. How rude is that? I wipe my hands down after every outing and when I get home I wash with soap and water. I rarely get sick. Coincidence? I think not. Perhaps if more people were like us there wouldn't be so much sickness.

Posted: Friday, June 17, 2011
Article comment by: Prescott Valley Resident

I go to the gym 5 times a week, it is historically a breeding ground for germs. I wash my hands after working out using hot water, counting to 30. I know I get less colds now, than I used to due to this process. We should all be more like Richard,maybe not as compulsive but, more aware of germs .

Posted: Friday, June 17, 2011
Article comment by: Richard Haddad

Publishing the name of the business would be bad form. As a manager of several businesses in the past I think I did what was right at the time. It's not fair to label a business and all its employees with a black mark because of the ill actions of one. I reported it to the manager right away -- at that point it became the manager's responsibility to take appropriate action, and I hope she did.
Coincidentally, some time after this incident it appeared to me that much of the staff was replaced and new management took over. This may not be related, but it was an interesting observation.


Posted: Friday, June 17, 2011
Article comment by: DV DA

Shouldn't that employee have been fired??? Like on the spot? Illnesses contracted in that manner can kill unsuspecting and physically compromised people. If you had guts, Mr. Haddad, you would let us all in on the restaurant so we can avoid potentially dying.

Posted: Friday, June 17, 2011
Article comment by: d m

RUN RICHARD RUN! Personally I would not have eaten after seeing what you saw. I don't eat at "fast food" joints very often, and I probably won't for a long time after reading this. My experience was with a worker at a well known sub franchise that pulled his hair back just before he made my sandwich. I let him finish then I pointed out his mistake. He was less than happy after that so we wound up not staying to eat and we haven't been back since.

Posted: Friday, June 17, 2011
Article comment by: Broncorider Arizona

Good for you to speak up!! As a health care professional and a mental health advocate, I know that simple hand washing can prevent a great number of illnesses. Many fast food restaurants employ young people who do not take this seriously. Like many of their peers it's an ignorant attitude of "it doesn't apply to me". It's important to note when it becomes an obsession for others who suffer with this disorder, but it should NEVER dissuade a person from finding a sink and washing up before or after the above mentions scenarios. Thank you.

Posted: Friday, June 17, 2011
Article comment by: Maybe we oughta...

put those unused Redflex cameras to work at fast food sinks.
BTW, just read today that China is considering making food crimes capital offenses.


Posted: Friday, June 17, 2011
Article comment by: Me too

I saw this happen too, and also in a PV fast food joint. In my case the employee went straight in to the back part of the kitchen where the grills are so I do not know if maybe he was off work then or maybe he was washing his hands back there. but it shouldn't matter. He should have washed his hands right away, especially with a customer standing right next to him in the restroom.

Posted: Friday, June 17, 2011
Article comment by: Autumn Crazy

I had the same thing happen to me here in Prescott years back. I was in a fast food restaurant when I went to use the bathroom and there wasn't soap available, told someone but nothing happened and someone went in and came (not to put soap in) and went back to working. I have gotten sick many times from other peoples germs so am a border line germafobe. Got sick many, many years ago from a pot luck whereas a bunch of people did and found out it was because somebody made food and didn't wash their hands. Was sick for 10 days. It is an awareness and managers should train the employees and people should be made aware in this day and age......I am in agreement. I won't eat anything that I think has cooties.......

Posted: Friday, June 17, 2011
Article comment by: Richard Haddad

Thank you for your comments Steven. You are correct about the importance of identifying the source of any obsessive behavior -- and I am well aware that my mysophobia has roots deeper than the surface symptoms I display. I am also very aware of the source -- born of events that happened when I was young, of which I do not write about. But where I must disagree is in your statement that "religion is not the answer." Solutions to personal disorders are rarely simple, and it is unreasonable to rule out something so completely as you have. In my life, religion has been a large part of my being able to have a happy, successful life, both in business and family relationships. Aspects of religion that have helped me function and find joy include faith, forgiveness, mercy and the belief that we are not placed on this earth to fail. I believe divine tools have been given to us to help us overcome our human imperfections. And for me, this has been a strength I could not find anywhere else.

Posted: Friday, June 17, 2011
Article comment by: Steven Major

I admire you for “coming out” in such a public way. I think the cleanliness you seek is more likely to come from psychotherapy than soap. Religion is not the answer. It seems that the CAUSE of your imbalance has not been explored…just that you have spent decades managing the symptom. Your good advice on food handling becomes less credible when delivered by someone who suffers imbalances such as yours. I stopped eating what I call public food decades ago…food at art galleries, potluck and church suppers and such…and have not had a cold or the flu in years. Good Luck…from a charter member of the imperfect human club.



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