One lasting thing this pandemic will leave behind with us, I believe, will be a new regard for cleanliness. In addition to social distancing, we’re told day after day to wash our hands. It’s like a mantra. Wash your hands.
From time to time in the past month, I’ve found myself wondering, “What would Monk do?” To explain.
Adrian Monk is the main character of an Emmy Award-winning series that ran on television from 2002 to 2009, starring the terrific Tony Shalhoub as a former San Francisco Police detective. “Monk” is an all-time favorite of mine. By the way, these days Shalhoub can be seen playing the father of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” on Amazon Prime. Mrs. Maisel is a female comedian making her way in the Mad Men era of the 1950s. It too is must-see TV. But I digress.
After the traumatic death of his wife, a number of emotional and mental issues present themselves in Monk. He develops OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder, along with an especially severe case of germaphobia. When he’s not being called in to help police solve crimes no one else seems capable of doing, he spends his time fighting germs, deep cleaning his home. One episode begins with a scene of Monk deep vacuuming the walls and ceiling of his home. FYI, I had an aunt who would wash her walls, but that’s another story, and another blog.
Monk’s character is defined in the lyrics by the series theme song, “It’s a Jungle Out There,” by the wonderful Randy Newman. My two favorite lines:
People think I’m crazy, ’cause I worry all the time
If you paid attention, you’d be worried, too
I’m a little bit like Monk. My own growing germaphobia began long before COVID-19, at about the same time the Monk series originally aired, come to think of it.
If I had to, I could point to the one example of what likely sparked mine, and it’s not a pretty one. Years ago, as I was leaving the men’s room of a Fargo restaurant, I couldn’t help but notice a man finishing his business at a urinal and, without washing his hands, exiting the men’s room and heading directly to the salad bar. Directly. There, he proceeded to load up a plate with iceberg lettuce and all the trimmings, using just about every serving utensil at his disposal — and mine. Needless to say, perhaps, but own my appetite was lost that day. Yes, it may well have been the moment my germaphobia began.
For me, I’m afraid it has only increased with age.
Using the door knobs and handles of public buildings never used to bother me. Now it does. As the fear of germs goes, it’s probably my big one. It’s a little embarrassing for me. If I’m not wearing gloves, if it’s the middle of July, for instance, I’ll do whatever it takes not to touch a door knob. It’s a little bit crazy, I know. Yup, I’ve got a little bit of Monk in me. Where it ends remains to be seen.
On the other hand — no pun intended — I have no reluctance to shake hands with people. Even though Dr. Anthony Fauci, who serves in the Trump administration’s White House Coronavirus Task Force, believes shaking hands is likely to become a thing of the past.
Again, it begs the question. What would Monk do? I’m pretty sure I know.