Spread it Around: Rules for Flu Season—and Beyond

As so many of us know, it’s flu season—a time fraught with unexpected germ hazards. (Speaking for myself, I was laid out flat for a week with some type of pox, the consequence of which is that I now dive under the table as soon as I hear the “ah” in any nearby “ah-choo.”)

The majority of the time, however, I have (according to my friends) quite a high threshold for dirt—adopting a (to them) devil-may-care attitude toward the washing of my vegetables, the romping of my dog across the furniture, and the acceptance of the “3-second Rule” (As far as I’m concerned, food that has been on the floor less than three seconds is still in play.)

I recognize these choices aren’t for everyone.

Regardless of the germ-of-the-moment or your tolerance for dirt, however, I believe there are two potentially germ-laden interactions we should all engage in at every opportunity: the placing of money in the hands of the person from whom we are making our purchases, and the shaking of hands with the people who provide service to our homes—be it the barista handing us our morning coffee or the gentleman who has come to install our cable.

Now I understand that in these days of inundation by miniature bottles of lavender-scented hand sanitizer my asking people to voluntarily physically touch one another is a stretch. Perhaps, but stretching is good for the mind and body—and far less painful than watching people lay money on a store counter, rather than placing it in a shopkeeper’s outstretched hand; or turning their backs on the outstretched hand of the person who’s come to read their meter, fix their dishwasher, or organize their leaking faucet.

Because regardless of the season, touching another person’s hand is a mark of civility and respect—and I feel both these qualities can, and should, be spread around.

Frances Cole Jones