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Finger Licking ... Bad

 

April 16, 2020

Editor's Note: This column was originally published in the Herald edition of Feb. 21, 2013. The Herald agreed with Mr. Bush to republish it because the content is newly relevant.

As hot as this topic is – and as passionate as I am about it – even with President Obama and his ill-informed minions running around saying feel-good phrases like, "if there's one life we can save, we've got an obligation to try" – I just can't keep writing about the gun control debate.

So, with the cold and flu season upon us, I decided to switch gears and write about a certain ill-mannered aspect of society that really gets under my skin – or "on" my skin.

I'm not exactly sure when I started to notice this, because I surely wasn't always concerned with the ill manners or unsanitary habits of others. Indeed, while I was in the military, I sometimes had to live with others in close quarters under not-so-sanitary conditions and it never bothered me.

Perhaps my acute observation skills are a product of a career built around observing details or maybe it's because I had Mr. Burns for microbiology in high school. I'm not exactly sure when or why, but at some point, I began to notice little things that people do that – well, that are just gross.

Next time you're watching an NFL game, watch the quarterback. Almost all of them lick three or four fingers, sometimes on each hand, before every snap. The ball he's about to receive is the same ball that the rest of the sweaty, sometimes bloody, guys carry around; the same ball that rolls around on the ground, the ground onto which the rest of the players are constantly spitting. So, every time the quarterback licks his fingers, he's actually licking the sweaty, bloody spit that transferred from the ball to his hands the last play. He's also, in effect, spitting on the ball himself and then everyone else who touches the ball is touching his spit.

The quarterback's lack of concern for catching or spreading the flu, and his lack of consideration for his fellow players, doesn't concern me. He's miles away and the lack of concern and consideration seems mutual. But it does concern me, and possibly affect (or infect) me when I'm face-to-face with the finger-licker.

Finger-Lickers

Finger-lickers come in various forms and they do their licking for various reasons, usually to make their fingers wet in order to aid in picking something up, sorting or opening something. Separately, you have food-lickers.

You have the thumb-licker that licks only the thumb; you have finger-lickers that lick one or two fingers; you have hybrid-lickers that have perfected the lick by pinching their tongue between fingers and thumb. Food-lickers primarily lick as needed to clean their fingers while eating.

Maybe it's just me, but it seems that finger-licking is becoming more common. I've seen it at banks, the post office, various stores and businesses.

I absolutely cringe when I'm interacting with someone and they lick their fingers and then touch whatever it is that they are about to hand to me. They might as well pick up the money, paper, business card, bag, or whatever and just stick their tongue out and slap some saliva onto it and then hand the item to me. There is no difference.

Stop licking my food

I'm particularly annoyed when the licking occurs at a store where I'm buying groceries or food items. It's bad enough when it happens at a grocery store, but at least I have time to forget about it during the drive home. When it happens at a convenience store where I've brought my food and drink to the counter, and the clerk licks his fingers to open the little plastic bag and then picks up my soda and food items to put them in the bag, I just want to scream.

What he just did was spit on the exterior of my soda and food. Now I have to handle it in order to eat or drink it.

Food-Lickers

One might think the food-licker is a little different. After all, she's licking her own fingers and touching her own food, so who cares, right? I have no problem with the food-licker right up to the point where she ultimately has to touch something that affects (or infects) me.

Inevitably, the food-licker will touch the salt or pepper shaker; or maybe they'll pick up the chicken bucket and pass it over; or they'll use their spit-laden fingers to get a handful of chips from the bowl or bag. I've even seen food-lickers pick up a food item and hand it to someone who, apparently lacking observation skills, unwittingly consumes the item and the food-licker's spit right along with it.

What bothers me the most about finger-lickers isn't the fact that they're possibly spreading an untold plethora of illnesses or disease to the rest of us. I think what bothers me the most is the absolute display of rudeness and inconsideration for others. It's just one more sign that our society is becoming increasingly ill-mannered.

Finger-lickers actually present a real threat. According to the Centers for Disease Control, from 2008-2011, flu deaths in the U.S. averaged 53,435 per year. In contrast, during those same years, an average of 30,736 people died by firearms (19,029 of which were suicides and 245 "other").

Since, over a period of four years, 22,699 more people died of the flu rather than guns, maybe it's time that the federal government act to criminalize finger-licking? After all, if it saves just one life, don't we have an obligation to try?

Author's Note: It would be stupid to assume that the views expressed in this column are necessarily held by the Morrisons Cove Herald, its employees, owners or advertisers.

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