Germs need more respect from us

How are you, readers? I'm doing well, in spite of the billions of germs crawling all over me.

I've been thinking about germs a lot. It started when I read that piece in the paper last week about how our dollar bills are coated with bacteria, from all the people who've handled them.

True, my first thought when I read about germ-covered money was. "Infest me with it, please." But now I've been reading Bill Bryson's book "At Home," which at one point discusses all the germs we have hanging about the house. (And about our bodies.)

Bryson cites a noted germ-ologist who found there are bacteria swarming all over the average house, with the most popular germ hangouts being desktops, kitchen counters and sinks. In fact, these spots were way germier than our toilet seats, because those get disinfected more often.

You know how many quick lunches I've gobbled at my desk or standing over the kitchen sink? From now on, I'm eating lunch in the bathroom.

But that's not enough. Intrepid journalist that I am, I wanted to get to the bottom of this story, go right to the source.

So I dusted off my 1959 Gilbert student microscope, put a dollar bill between the glass slides, and looked for a germ to interview.

Squinting really hard, I finally spotted one, slinking across George Washington's nose. Hey down there, I called, got a minute?

"Sure," it called back. "What's time to a bacterium?" (It had a surprisingly deep, resonant voice.)

I'm writing a newspaper column on the germ lifestyle, I said. Could you be a spokesgerm for your billions of colleagues?

"I guess so. I've been around. Been riding on this dollar bill since last November. Ever since the guy whose wallet it was in used a supermarket restroom and didn't wash his hands, the slob. Then he rubbed me off on the bill when he used it to help pay for a six-pack."

Fascinating. What's your name?

"My official Latin name? Never use it, it's too formal. I prefer the name Herman. My friends call me Herm."

Herm the Germ?

"That's it. What do you want to know?"

I hope this isn't too personal a question, Herm, but are you a bad germ or a good germ?

"Come again?"

I've read that some bacteria are beneficial, that in fact we couldn't live without them. And others are the bad bacteria that make us sick.

"Hey, pal, I consider that an offensively human-centric attitude. We bacteria are just trying to live our lives as best we can. We have strong family values, I'll have you know. Every germ I know is devoted to his millions of brothers. If we had sexes, we'd be devoted to our sisters, too."

Sorry, I didn't mean to offend.

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