My dirty little secret

I’m chopping vegetables in my kitchen and a bit of red bell pepper falls on the floor. I snatch it up and toss it in the garbage. I come indoors after working in my garden and hop into the shower — my second one of the day.

That’s my “at home” cleanliness.

Then there’s camping. The tortilla I just set on the edge of my plate falls to the ground. I pick it up immediately, brush off the dirt and sand, maybe blow on it a few times for good measure, and proceed to dip it in the salsa and eat it anyway. After all, it’s the last one we brought! Or perhaps I drop my fork on the ground. I might rinse it off with a bit of our drinking water or wipe it on my pant leg (ew!) and carry on. As far as personal hygiene, Wet Ones and a clean(ish) washcloth dipped in heated water generally tide me over for at least three days when there are no showers nearby.

Did you know that there’s actually been a scientific study on the 5-second rule? Turns out, our kitchen floor might not be all that terrible when it comes to dropped food. The dirt in our campsite, however, is probably not so easy to study. Nor as safe.

It seems to me that we’ve become far too paranoid about germs, bacteria, and so on. Not that I’m likely to change my careful behavior at home…but I’m also okay with my questionable decisions on cleanliness while out camping, hiking, and climbing. I do carry hand sanitizer with my TP and “cat hole” digger for those backcountry calls of nature and even for the visits to those vault-like outhouses in many campgrounds. And I use it. I’m not totally crazy. Dirty, but at least partially sane.

Have I ever gotten sick (in the gastro-intestinal sense) on a camping trip (or shortly after one)? Just once, as far as I remember. A friend cooked up a lovely vegetable stew for our group’s dinner one evening. What she didn’t mention is that the baby carrots hadn’t been kept in the cooler the previous few days — they resided inside a tent that sat in the hot sun. It wasn’t pretty. I wasn’t the sickest person in our group, but what I experienced was no walk in the park. (Maybe “trot in the park,” but let’s not go there).

Thinking back to my childhood, neither my mother nor I seem to have suffered any ill-effects when she “kissed my ouch-y” either.

That’s my dirty little secret. Now, please excuse me while I go wash my hands before cooking dinner. I’m at home, you see.


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