From The Publisher’s Desk: That’s real fear in my eyes

9:53 am | September 24, 2012

Pantophobia.

That was Lucy Van Pelt’s diagnosis for Charlie Brown in the famous Peanuts Christmas special. Poor Chuck. Nearly 43 years ago, he was diagnosed to have a “fear of everything.”

Sometimes, I feel like I can relate.

The 24-hour news channels bombard us with the latest horror stories of tainted food, artery-clogging fats and drug-resistant bacteria. It’s enough to make you want to start duct-taping up the house from the inside until you realize you’d be trapped with whatever you already have that’s bound to leap out of the kitchen cabinets, wrestle you to the ground and stomp the life out of you.

I must admit, I’m more than a little paranoid about catching some horrible disease just from touching a dollar bill. Even now when you choose a shopping cart at your favorite department store, sanitary wipes are offered to kill all the germs the last person left behind. Somehow that never makes me feel better.

And don’t get me started — too late, right? — about how disturbed I am about the sneeze from a person five aisles away in a crowded theater or when I have to breath the recycled air from 200 fellow passengers on a plane.

Five hundred years ago, royalty moved from palace to palace to try and outpace whatever was plaguing the countryside, but today we can’t outrun anything. In a worldwide economy, everyone else’s disease is closer than ever.

First, it was mad-cow disease, and then tainted spinach was sending people to the hospital. A few years back, the Centers for Disease Control warned about outbreaks of salmonella in nine states from folks eating tainted tomatoes. One of the biggest joys of my life is eating a good, fresh tomato, but now I have to wonder if I might die from a tomato and mayo sandwich.

And wasn’t it last summer that cantaloupes were killing people?

Something’s got to give.

But if you think that’s bad, Reuters reported a while back that those disinfectant wipes — you know, the ones at the shopping carts? — may actually be spreading drug-resistant bacteria. Now what are we to do?

For some time, big corporations have been making a fortune on fools like me. I don’t travel without disinfectant wipes. When I’m at Disney World, I avoid touching absolutely anything. If I must touch something, I immediately reach into my pocket and retrieve my travel-size antibiotic gel and wipe myself down. In the middle of Tomorrowland, I look like a surgeon scrubbing up for a heart transplant. You can’t be too careful. You have no idea where that Dumbo’s been or who was the last person to ride Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.

But, then again, sometimes you’re not careful enough.

While enjoying a sea cruise recently and perusing the immense offerings at the breakfast bar, I noticed a lone raspberry yogurt at the back. Stretching to grasp the container, I smacked my face right into the “sneeze guard” that covered the food at the buffet bars. (I heard those plastic overhangs called a sneeze guard once. I’m not sure if that’s the proper term, but it certainly gives you an apt idea of why we want them there.)

Anyway, I pulled back in horror only to see I wasn’t the only person to have made that same mistake. Their lips and facial oils were planted right there along with mine.

Let me tell you, there’s not enough antibiotic gel to protect you from the psychological effects of smooching a sneeze guard. That would have sent Charlie Brown overboard.

If I weren’t deathly afraid of water, I would have taken the plunge myself.

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