Microbes Are Our Friends

Twitter and Facebook suck up too much of my life.  It’s not that I spend that much time on either of them in themselves; it’s that other people using those services keep tempting me to go other places on the internet by posting enticing links.  For example, just a few days ago someone on twitter posted a link to a youtube video about whether the “5 second rule” was accurate.

It was a humorous ten minute video by a scientist and he delved into dipole attraction, mechanical adherence and a variety of other methods that errant germs, microbes and bacteria might use to contaminate the piece of Bit O Honey candy that just slipped through my fingers and fell to the lunchroom floor.  His conclusion: my candy was begrimed before it hit the ground.  The 5 second rule is invalid.

I’m here to say that, if that’s true, then I and untold billions of other males in the world should be dead by now from repeated poisoning.  Men live by the 5 second rule and rightly so.

For thousands upon thousands of years people have been picking things up from the ground and eating them.  Can you imagine telling a Cro-Magnon human that he couldn’t eat the pod of berries that he just wrestled away from a cave bear because it accidently fell on the ground as he pulled it away from the bear’s paw?  He’d laugh, smack you with a tree branch and then eat the berries.

Rather than trying to avoid germs and bacteria, my theory is that humans should embrace them.  We do exactly the opposite.  I firmly believe that someday historians will mark the day that the first antiseptic hand cleaner in a pump container was sold as the first day in the demise of the human race.  The five second rule doesn’t exist to protect us from germs; it’s there to make sure that we stay on a first name basis with them.  My logic is two fold.

If you read the labels on most antiseptic products, somewhere it will say that they kill 99.5% of common bacteria.  That sounds good, but what happens to the other 0.5%?  They breed.  So, when you use the same cleaner a few generations of bacteria later, it only kills 95% of the little critters.  What happens to the other 5%?  They breed.  Pretty soon, we have a new breed of super bacteria that nothing kills.  I write science fiction.  I know how that story ends.

The other part of the equation is what happens to our immune systems while we’re helping the little creepy-crawlies throw natural selection into high gear.  We’re disabling it.  It’s like anything else in nature; if you don’t use it, you lose it.  By protecting our bodies against being exposed to a wide variety of germs and bacteria we’re allowing our immune systems to get weak and emaciated.  Our antibodies forget how to deal with organisms that they used to be able to handle with ease.  When the new super bacteria finally gets a chance to say hello, and they will, we won’t have a chance.

I’m not a total Neanderthal.  I wash my hands thoroughly after I go to the bathroom and when I clean the leftovers out of the refrigerator, anything that has green mold on it is off limits.  That’s especially true if the green mold actually moves.  But, I think that we’re protecting ourselves and our children from the natural world too much.  Maybe that’s why it seems like more kids have allergies today than they did when I grew up.

Now, I’m not saying that a kid should whip out a spoon if he drops his ice cream cone on the sidewalk as he’s leaving the Dairy Queen store.  But, when I was a boy, if I dropped a dry gumball on the ground and an ant crawled on it before I picked it up, then I flicked the ant off, rubbed the gumball on my shirt a couple of times and popped it in my mouth.  I lived.

A few years ago, Linda and I had a Japanese girl live with us for a year as an exchange student.  One day, shortly after she arrived, we were in the kitchen talking and I was eating a handful of Milk Duds.  One of them fell to the floor and I quickly bent over, picked it up, blew on it and ate it.  She gave me a quizzical look and I assumed that I had broken some sort of Japanese rule of hygiene.  Knowing that it would happen again, I proceeded to explain that in the United States we started to count when we drop something dry and hard on the floor.  If we could pick it up before we got to five then it was OK to eat it.

She nodded, but I could sense that she wasn’t in full agreement with the concept, so I asked if she preferred that I not do that.  Her response was. “Oh no, that is fine.  It is just that in Japan we count to seven.  Sometimes things roll and we need time to catch them.”

The average lifespan in the United States is 78.24 years.  In Japan it’s 82.6 years.  Just sayin’.

See ya


Filed under Common Sense, Just Life

3 responses to “Microbes Are Our Friends

  1. Alexandra R.

    Love the 5-second-rule!

  2. Japan might be on to something 🙂

  3. A seven-second rule? I like it because frankly as I age I need seven-seconds to bend down and then back up again!

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