I should preface all this with the fact that I am an inconsistent and illogical germophobe.
(Though of course not in the same league as K., who as a child would refuse to eat off his own plate if someone else reached past him at the table, thereby causing even a small portion of his arm to invade K.'s plate's "air space." And in a great cosmic joke, HE married a woman who, without a second thought, would walk into someone else's kitchen, stick her finger in something cooking on the stove, lick it off and go for seconds. If that wasn't evidence right there that he was making a mistake, I don't know what is. And we've all been proved right, haven't we? ... but I digress.)
As a Catholic I have always ardently consumed the Precious Blood from the communal communion cup, though I am often loathe to shake hands, and not only from the pain it often causes me.
Though while the thought of a stray bacterium or two on the lip of the chalice held no terrors for me, (and let's face it, an EMHC making a swipe with a purificator or whatever it's called is in the same hygienic league as your friend blowing on a piece of candy you've dropped on the movie theater floor -- "convectiventilation," I think the technique is called,) I admit to have inwardly shuddered at seeing, and worse, hearing serious slurpers in front of me in line, attacking the spoon at an Eastern Rite church.
And when my best friend was dying from AIDS, although I myself seldom caught colds and was never debilitated or even laid up very long with various flus and bronchitises making the rounds, I was paranoid about picking up and passing on even a minor cold that could have been devastating to him.
I seem to be sick all the time now, but I am in contact with no one delicate, and since my main task is not vocal, (although laryngitis or a bad cold during what I think of as "high Ave Maria season" could be devastating economically, I suppose,) I don't give as much attention to the way the rest of the world conspires to give me germs as I used.
Himself is a different matter, and to my shame I admit I try not to but carp at him a bit, about washing hands, about not spilling the entire contents of a pill bottle into his hand and pouring the ones he doesn't want back, about not swishing a knife used to cut raw meat under some water and wiping it off on a hand towel and calling it clean, .... again I digress.
I was never a big Seinfeld watcher (if I want to spend a half hour with unpleasant but invasively funny people, I've got an enormous family, right?) but everyone is probably aware of how one episode gave a name to the pervasive and pernicious practice that has been on display at probably every party one has attended during the now winding-down holiday season, and will be out there in spades this coming "Super Bowl" weekend, (I asked, as we planned a meeting for this coming Sunday and someone opined that turn-out may be sparse because of the Bowl, "And that is...? some sort of sporting event?" I do it every year, but I think it is good for my friends to have something they can rely on about me.)
The NYTimes reports on an actual study of the possibility for germ transfer via "double dipping."
[Researchers] instructed volunteers to take a bite of a wheat cracker and dip the cracker for three seconds into about a tablespoon of a test dip. They then repeated the process with new crackers, for a total of either three or six double dips per dip sample. The team then analyzed the remaining dip and counted the number of aerobic bacteria in it. They didn’t determine whether any of the bacteria were harmful, and didn’t count anaerobic bacteria, which are harder to culture, or viruses.
There were six test dips: sterile water with three different degrees of acidity, a commercial salsa, a cheese dip and chocolate syrup.
On average, the students found that three to six double dips transferred about 10,000 bacteria from the eater’s mouth to the remaining dip.
Each cracker picked up between one and two grams of dip. That means that sporadic double dipping in a cup of dip would transfer at least 50 to 100 bacteria from one mouth to another with every bite.
The kind of dip made a difference in a couple of ways. The more acidic water samples had somewhat fewer bacteria, and the numbers of bacteria declined with time. But the acidic salsa picked up higher initial numbers of bacteria than the cheese or chocolate, because it was runny. The thicker the dip, the more stuck to the chip, and so the fewer bacteria were left behind in the bowl.
Professor Dawson said that Timmy was essentially correct. “The way I would put it is, before you have some dip at a party, look around and ask yourself, would I be willing to kiss everyone here? Because you don’t know who might be double dipping, and those who do are sharing their saliva with you.”