Let me take you back a few months. The holidays are a festive time at my office. Potlucks and decorating and gift exchanges are the order of the day. I suppose I need not tell you that I do not participate in the merrymaking, for more reasons than one. A major reason is that distancing myself from the activities protects me from exposure to a bevy of germs – in theory.
The decision was made to make the gift exchange specific this time: The participants were to buy holiday-themed socks for the person whose name they drew from a hat. Not being involved in the festivities, I thought that my exposure to germs would be minimal, if not non-existent. Wishful thinking! I did not know what the event would entail.
Let me set the scene for you. Almost everyone in the office was hyped up because of the “mini-party” that was to take place during the noon hour. You’d think Santa himself was coming the way the excitement escalated throughout the morning. The volume continued its crescendo right up until the exchange began. It would grow quiet while a person opened their package, which would be followed by a burst of laughter and shouting. I found this extremely irritating. Am I the only one that is bothered by noise, or is that common among those of us with OCD? It was my understanding beforehand that the participants were to put gifts inside the socks, in keeping with the gifts-in-stockings holiday tradition. I suppose it was the gifts inside that were prompting the outbursts, though I can’t imagine what could have been that amusing. But all of this could not have prepared me for what would come next.
They tried on the socks! That’s right: They removed their shoes and tried on the gift socks. There was a lot of touching of shoes and socks and probably feet if they removed any socks they were already wearing. At first when I heard what they were doing, I was still in my state of general annoyance. But then it dawned on me how much contamination was taking place, and that they would spread their foot germs to their desks, to files, to paperwork, to the break room, and potentially to me. I wanted to bolt right then and there! But I stayed and fretted all afternoon, concerned that someone would bring work over to my desk. But that was the worst of it, right?
Uh, no. There’s an older gentleman that works in the office, and one of the younger ladies works closely with him, so they have become pals. Apparently he exited the area when the group started trying on the socks. When it was over, the young lady went to his office and very vocally insisted that he try on his gift socks. He objected for a few minutes, but she finally wore him down. And she herself put the socks on him! Yes, she removed his shoes and put the socks on his feet. I don’t know if the socks he was wearing were removed first, but does it matter? The contamination was atrocious. I know at some point the older gentleman had to touch his shoes or socks, which is particularly bad because he brings a good deal of work to my desk.
And did he? Did he bring work to me that afternoon? Of course, he did. He brought a file, and I had to use a baggie to move the file to my cabinet. I didn’t touch the file for a week, putting my faith in the germ-die-off theory. So I handled the file as usual after a week? Not a chance! I had my now routine setup of wipes by the stack, an open bottle of rubbing alcohol, and pieces of soap ready to go with me to the sink along with a bunch of napkins. Their little party was the cause of a major cleanup session for me.
From now on, holiday parties are an excuse for me to stay home. That won’t stop the contamination, but a germophobe can only take so much.