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Around the time I discovered I was pregnant with my son, like most mothers-to-be, I became a germophobe. Part of it was rational (or at least that’s what I told myself) because the world is a scary and potentially dangerous place for a pregnant lady. Most of it was irrational, though, as if not touching a doorknob would somehow magically transform my fetus into a Mozart-like supergenius.

It only got worse after he was born, as I washed my hands raw before and after touching him. My skin cracked as I slathered on yet another layer of antibacterial gel as the cat brushed against my hand. But as he became sick and recovered, I started to get over it a little.

Still I have a strong aversion from touching surfaces like doorknobs and handrails. I work in a hospital, so illness is rampant and caution encouraged and justified. But when I’m off campus, I relish opportunities when I can get away with not touching anything. Going to lunch, I try to time my entry to buildings by following other people who are just so polite to hold doors open for me.

I definitely say thank you, but what the stranger doesn’t notice is my enthusiastic tone which also has a hidden message. Behind the obvious gratitude for the kind gesture, I’m also super stoked that that’s one less filthy surface I don’t have to touch. I smile broadly, as if this surface will be the deciding factor between me and the zombie apocalypse infection that is certain to befall me if I touched the door handle.

“Oh, if only I hadn’t touched that doorknob…”