I’ve never met someone who ate food off the floor that I didn’t like. It’s the unifying characteristic of my kind. The general attitude towards life that it takes to drop something on the floor, pick it back up and put it in your mouth is a trait I’ve always admired and consciously try to cultivate in myself. It indicates a certain bravado and devil-may-care attitude that’s sorely lacking in today’s disinfectant-slathered society.
There are those among us who would call the practice unsanitary, uncouth or even downright disgusting. While these people certainly aren’t my enemies—my general attitude towards life doesn’t give enough of a shit for enemies—I’ve never cared much for them.
There are, of course, exceptions. I once met a nurse who described for me in detail the multitude of microorganisms that I was also consuming as a result of eating a frito I’d dropped on the floor. The look on her face when she gave that rant was rather endearing. She also lectured me on the benefits of frequent hand washing. I believed her to a certain extent. I’m sure there is plenty of scientific research to back up her claims. Experts. And it’s not like I never wash my hands. I just hate the way the soap dries them out, so I don’t do it if I don’t deem it necessary, which is to say I give it the smell test.
The thing is, I rarely if ever get sick so I don’t see the need. For awhile I even had a theory that eating stuff off the floor strengthens your immune system by giving it practice. This notion was bolstered by the fact that some of the biggest hand washers I know (verging on OCD) get sick on a monthly basis. This anecdotal stuff hardly counts as scientific evidence, I realize, but it’s good enough for me until I’m given a reason to think otherwise.
Frequency of sickness among people I know isn’t all I’m basing this on either. When I was in high school I got mono from not washing my lips after kissing a girl. For those who don’t know, mono attacks your immune system. Even after the symptoms of the disease dissipated I got sick constantly, probably at least once or twice a month. I switched to frequent, thorough (20 seconds!) hand washing, and you know what? It didn’t do shit. Eventually I gave up with the hand washing and over time I stopped getting sick. Once again, hardly a scientifically controlled study, but good enough for me.
When I went on my first and only date with the nurse I spent the whole night I trying to convince her that microorganisms aren’t necessarily a bad thing. In the case of blue cheese they add flavor, or in the case of beer they add alcoholic content. She agreed that these were beneficial and benign, but for some reason she wouldn’t budge on the dirtiness of the floor. I pleaded with her that my position wasn’t just willful ignorance. I took Bacteriology in undergrad, after all, with lab! I told her microorganisms are all around us, sitting on “clean” plates, floating in the air, scurrying around our mouths and stomachs and intestines. Of course, it was no use. The germs on the floor are a particularly roguish bunch in her opinion.
I took her home and walked her up to her front door. She told me it had been an interesting experience, which I thought was polite of her. Then I tried to kiss her. She put her index finger to my lips, preventing my advance, and told me she didn’t want to risk it. I kissed the ground, told her she’d better wash her hands and left.