Cool, Man!

Ronnie Mincey

Mincey’s Musings
Year One, Week Thirty-Six

Many people follow the “five second rule”. It goes something like this—if something is dropped on the floor and remains less than five seconds, it is fine to retrieve for consumption by the human body. This holds especially true when referring to the last chip in the bag.

I can remember instances of those who followed the “no second rule”. The people who presently come to mind are those who worried about cleanliness to the point of obsession. These people were mysophobes, germophobes, or bacterophobes, or perhaps all three rolled into one. In simple English, these people feared germs.

When I was in elementary school, there was the annual onslaught of the mumps. I contracted mine in the second grade when I was seven years old. My glands swelled and I couldn’t stand the smell of food, but other than that it was a two week vacation from school. My father was in the hospital at the time, and my mother left during the day to stay with him. Until she returned at nightfall, I was left in the care of my Aunt Lidia. Oh, what rapture to have those days all to myself with that wonderful saint!

Aunt Lidia was no germophobe. Someone recently related to me that Aunt Lidia occasionally used to visit their home. The lady of the house would get quite upset because Aunt Lidia would take a spoon and taste whatever was cooking on the stove, perhaps using the same spoon more than once in different vessels. The lady never said anything to Aunt Lidia, but she never ate what Aunt Lidia tasted. She did serve it to the rest of her family, however.

Aunt Lidia was an avid scholar of the Scriptures. She would sometimes become so absorbed that she forgot household chores like keeping the fire in the Warm Morning™ stove. The fire would go out, the house would get cool, and Aunt Lidia would rouse herself from her studies and try to rebuild the fire. In the process, she would get ashes all over the floor.

On one such occasion, the Rev. Ben H. Knisley, then pastor of Maynardville Baptist Church, came to visit. Preacher Knisley was the first regularly visiting preacher I ever knew, and even then he was seemingly the last of a dying breed. The fire was out, the ashes were on the floor, but Preacher Knisley and his wife Fern took no notice. They began a discussion of the Bible which was continuing when my mother came home. She said she was never so ashamed in her life, but she never mentioned her embarrassment to Aunt Lidia or let on to the preacher and his Mrs. that anything was wrong.

Neither Aunt Lidia nor my mother had contracted mumps. We all three slept in the bed in the living room, me in the middle. Mother worried that Aunt Lidia would catch them from me and that it might kill her in her advanced age.

So, what did Preacher Knisley find on his next visit? Dad was out of the hospital, Aunt Lidia had moved on to her next temporary destination, and Mother was in bed with the mumps. I couldn’t understand why Preacher Knisley didn’t want to go into the bedroom and visit her! Mother later said she had never been so sick in her life.
Remarkably, I endured the rest of my childhood, never suffering from two other common diseases that kept lots of kids from school, chicken pox and measles. I did have chicken pox when I was twenty-seven years old and teaching fifth grade at Luttrell Elementary. A mother of one of my students called me at home to tell me that her son wouldn’t be in school because he had chicken pox. I told her not to worry, that I had them, too! As a matter of fact, I secretly gave full credit for my dilemma to that very student.

And there were other childhood traumas to endure. There continues to this day the occasional outbreak of head lice. When I was in elementary school, my dad insisted that I wear a “burr” haircut. This had its advantage—when our class was checked for lice, my hair was so short that no decent louse would have bothered to attach itself to the scant hair that remained on my head.

But it also had its disadvantages. I was thinking earlier today of the beautiful girl who transferred into our sixth grade class. She sat behind me—we were assigned the last two seats in the row closest to the bulletin board and water fountain. She would rub my head and ask me, tauntingly, “Do you have to use shampoo or can you just rub a washcloth over your head?”

Remember Barbara Mandrell’s song, “I Was Country, When Country Wasn’t Cool”? I wore a burr when they weren’t cool. Burrs later came back into style (somewhat), and those funny eyeglass frames I wore did as well. Too bad that beautiful girl didn’t realize I was just ahead of the times!

Along with head lice came another scourge, the dreaded scabies, otherwise known as “the itch”. I remember a classmate, also in our sixth grade class, who was an unfortunate victim of this ailment. She was unceremoniously removed from our class. The teacher (a true germophobe) held by the pinkie and forefinger everything this girl owned, schoolbooks included, and sprayed them with Lysol®. I tried this at home while playing school, but I didn’t use Lysol®--I was innovative and used Arid Extra Dry® deodorant. That old fourth grade math book sure did smell good for a while.

While I was in college, I took a summer history course. A fellow student, also a teacher in one of our local systems, always wore his suit coat so he could put his hand in his pocket to turn the doorknob so he wouldn’t have to touch it with his bare hand. Before sitting at his desk, he would spread a handkerchief across the surface as a barrier between himself and the germs other students might have left.

Next week I’ll share with you the tale of a germophobe who couldn’t get along with my father. Until then, remember this bit of wisdom gleaned from email:

A whale swims all day, only eats fish, and drinks water, but is still obese!

        

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