I sat in a strange situation from my crammed middle seat on a flight bound for Hawaii. I tried to wrap my mind around the germaphobe who was assigned the aisle spot next to me.
Back in my teaching years, I was hypersensitive to the physical triggers and stimuli presented to my students. Constantly aware of the physical surrounding in my classroom for those who were obsessive compulsive, perfectionists, germophobics, you name it, I taught it!
I was patient with some of my gifted students who had a deep-seated and life dependent need for perfection. I helped my OCD students struggle through the messy 6th grade world.
Simultaneously, I took care to have extra sanitation wipes and designated safe areas for those deathly afraid of the winter flu. Anything I could do to help my students focus and learn, I tackled religiously.
With this as my background, I noticed at once when the person assigned next to me in the plane took several cleansing wipes to sanitize every visible (and non-visible) surface. She diligently scrubbed the seat belt attachments, all fixtures in her vicinity, all while holding up the boarding passengers around her. Firmly placing herself in the aisle, she would not budge until her area was cleansed of all invisible invaders.
The angry delayed passengers behind her began to mumble and inch towards her space. After finally settling down, she asked me to wipe down my seat and area as well, which I complied (what could it hurt?). I complimented her on the coconut scented wipes she was using. She replied that she had found the coconut smell a fitting tribute to her trip to Hawaii. How perfect!
I tried to cleanse with as much detail as I had witnessed her do it. She seemed skeptical and fed me a few more tropical wipes to have another go-around at the seat screen buttons.
While deeply engaged in our cleaning spree, the flight took off. I noticed she had prepared her own food in advance. She accepted no snacks, and was very careful where she placed her hands and food containers.
So, here is why my mind is blown…
So far, she has matched the description of a germaphobe with a side order of OCD that I had experience with in the past.
Then it happened, she dropped her retainer that I assumed she had taken out in order to eat. To my grizzly despair, it rolled down my skirt and rested near my shoes (which are not the cleanest). Immediately, I cringed, I expected a panicked reaction or a fit of rage similar to a 6th grader.
Thoughts raced through my mind to fix the situation.
What should I do? If I touch it, does that make it worse (honestly, I don’t want to touch it).
To my surprise, she quickly grabbed it, wiped it on her jeans, and popped it back into her mouth like nothing had happened….MIND BLOWN!~
I know so little about how the human mind works after all. What makes some actions acceptable and not others or some germs tolerable while others are life threatening.
As I ponder what just went down (a little grossed out), I gave up trying to understand.
Instead, I have resolved to continue to live life respecting others and their space as best as I can. Everything continues to surprise me and life is definitely not boring!