Jacobsen at Jacobson

   

I almost forgot to put deodorant on before my school visit. If you doubt the seriousness of this near-miss of personal hygiene, you clearly have never referred to one of your drawings with  "and this is Number Two" to a classroom of third  graders, or sprayed the front of your pants with water from a recalcitrant bathroom faucet--twice--resulting in a snicker-inducing wet spot. Giant pit stains rest securely in the top ten of giggle-producing pandemonium at any elementary school, and rightly so.
Underarms coated twice, I arrived at Anna Marie Jacobson Elementary in Chandler for two presentations to fifth and sixth graders. My visit was part of the week-long Read Across America celebration, but I also had the good fortune of my day coinciding with the birthday of Dr. Seuss. Being greeted by Ms. Cartan  in a Cat in the Hat striped top hat with a black nose and whiskers artfully painted on her face can't help but put you at ease.
The two presentations went off without any embarrassments or technical hitches, and I was once again blown away and deeply impressed by the sea of bright minds before me. Their questions were thoughtful, their answers astute. The idea that we would short change these kids in any way, in the ways we already do, seems criminal and deeply saddening. Here in Arizona we seem to be fighting a losing battle. Certain politicians seem to think that the bare minimum is good enough. Well, it isn't. The kids at Jacobson elementary and everywhere deserve all we can give them, and I hope that in some small way my presentations said, "I believe in your potential. I will keep on fighting for you. I will not give up on you." I also hope it said "Making books is a fun and interesting job, and pit stains are not the end of the world."

A Pocket Full of Purell

SARS, then bird flu, and now the first global pandemic in decades, H1N1. Finally, FINALLY, the germa-phobes of the world are cool. No longer do we need hide behind the turtlenecks we’ve pulled up over our noses, trying our best not to breathe in that giant mucous droplet-filled sneeze you just unleashed. When we glare in disgust at your uncovered, tubercular hack while waiting in line at the airport ticket counter, fervently praying to the gods that you will not be our seatmate for the next five hours, and that you will, in fact, be barred from boarding altogether and possibly walled into your own house, we are not alone. Everyday folks, people who will voluntarily eat from those unattended sample trays at the grocery store, heedless of the two snotty kids who just pawed through them, even they join us in our censorship now. Those of us too long relegated to the “weirdo” category simply because we can SEE the thick, writhing layer of viruses and bacteria that coat each and every object and person we come in contact with during the course of a day, can now squirt our Purell proudly. As a kid I had several bouts with strep throat, all before entering the third grade. The pediatrician, who would prescribe the orange flavored antibiotic liquid for the whole family as a preventative, and thus took his place among the fathers of drug resistant flesh eating bacteria, told my mother that I probably had picked it up from the drinking fountains at school. As a result, I successfully navigated my entire school career, and yes that includes college, without ever ONCE touching a drinking fountain. I consider it quite the accomplishment. Like most of the health conscious (we prefer this term to germ-phobic or nutter) I have several at-home, College of Google, degrees: medicine, biology, and of course epidemiology. That scratchy throat and runny nose you had three weeks ago? Your co-worker used your telephone, blatantly disregarding the tub of Clorox wipes prominently displayed on your desk. That intestinal distress you experienced two months ago? The barista at Starbucks pressed the lid on your triple chai soy latte with her fresh from the lavatory, yet unwashed fingers right over the mouth hole. The flu you were down for the count with for two whole weeks last winter? The unvaccinated waiter sneezed on the entire bin of mini-muffins before stocking your salad bar at T.G.I.McCrappy’s.

Finally, the word is out: disease is not due to going out in the cold without a hat, those mean thoughts you had about your grandmother or a misalignment of your chakras—it is germs, people. GERMS. Wash those hands, cover those coughs and don’t touch any of my stuff. We germaphobes are standing proud, not holding hands or anything because who knows where theirs have been, but standing together, as one.