A change of seasons is upon us, and each new season brings its own set of challenges. The weather has cooled down, and the long-sleeved clothes have come out. My routine has changed also, as a result. But for better or for worse?
On the surface, long-sleeved clothing provides protection from germs that might come from bumping or brushing against a person or object, and it does. Although I feel a tad reluctant to give up my summer apparel, I think how the better coverage will make my life easier. On the typical warm day, when I arrive home from work, I can’t immediately change clothes, as I would like to do. I first must clean my arms. My arms come into unwanted contact with many things during the day, and I don’t want the contamination to be spread to my hands, or worse, to my face or hair when I change clothes. To avoid this, I must spray and/or wipe each arm to above the elbow with rubbing alcohol. It is a laborious task, especially after a long day. Once in a while I will go to the bathroom sink and wash up instead, but generally, I try to save the water when I can. (It takes a lot of water.)
But wearing long sleeves prevents all of this, doesn’t it? Alas, only in my imagination. Sleeves move, wrists get exposed, cuffs get contaminated, and the illusion of protection is gone. It’s particularly bad when a wrist becomes contaminated, and before I can start to clean it, the sleeve moves down on the dirty area and moves back up, taking the germs with it. At that point, the germs have spread underneath the sleeve. There’s no way to clean the arm until the shirt is removed.
As I’m getting into the routine of wearing winter clothes, I thought I would try a new approach. I wore a shirt with buttoned cuffs on two occasions this past week. What if I used baggies to unbutton the cuffs and fold them back? Then I could clean the relatively small areas on my arms, put on gloves to protect my hands, and slide off the shirt. It seemed like a good plan.
The first attempt at this was close to success, but one of the folded, flared cuffs (which looked like a nun’s cornette) hit the exposed region on the opposite forearm before I could complete the ritual. Fed up, I put on gloves, slid off the shirt, and went to the sink. Being determined to make this method work, I made another attempt a few days later. Foiled again! At least it happened earlier in the ritual, so I didn’t waste as much time. Honestly, I felt like giving up on it after that, but I try to minimize washing (is that germophobe heresy?) whenever possible. Not only does it use more resources, it dries out the skin even more than using alcohol. And this is significant to someone who spent years with flaking, even bleeding, hands. As with anything, the key to making this routine work was not losing focus. When I watched what I was doing with vigilance, I finally had success. After cleaning my arms sufficiently on the third try, I wrapped them in cellophane, put on my gloves, and slipped off my work shirt. Freedom! To a non-germophobe onlooker, it would seem like being trapped, but it felt like being liberated to me.
That’s not my only cold weather dilemma. Wearing a coat also presents a problem. I used to keep my coat on a hanger on the coat rack at the office, but I no longer wish to share with my co-workers who have questionable habits. I thought I had devised a way that I could bring a coat to work. I could drape a plastic bag over a chair in an empty office across from my cubicle and put my coat on that. If I ever do wear a coat there, that is what I’ll have to do. But coats typically come on and off multiple times before the coat is washed. Last season, there was a day that I wore a coat to the office and put it on a hanger for the day. During the day, my sleeve became contaminated, and at the end of the day, I couldn’t put my arm back through the coat. I mean, I could have, but then pulling the coat off would have spread the germs to my hand, and the coat would have had to go into the laundry basket. I left the coat there for the evening and took it home the next day. For now, coats are out. If I dress warmly enough, I don’t need one just to walk to and from the office.
I’m looking forward to sunny weather again! It’s simpler for me, I think.