Rob Taylor: Happily married, living the 99.9 percent germ-free life
September 15, 2008
“What a waste of ink,” Joy Allday mumbled, closing the Oprah Magazine, carefully avoiding the fingerprints on the cover. The deal killer? When the “Confrontation for Sissies” article deteriorated into a Latin root word analysis – an exercise that she had avoided since college.
But that day, Oprah herself – had she walked by and said hello – would have escaped Joy’s attention. Joy was preoccupied with her x-ray. It hung on the examination room wall like a colorless Picasso. Making the wall bothered her.
“Any big changes this past year?” the doctor asked, entering the room and enveloping it with Old Spice.
“None that I can think of,” she said.
Old Spice just buried his head in Joy’s file, glanced at the x-ray and grunted.
Joy hated clinics, tests and probing questions. She REALLY hated the lingering odor of ammonia and bleach and the inflexible chair that sunk its teeth into her pantyhose.
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In fact, that day, it took everything within Joy’s power NOT to say “forget it”, bolt out the door and start making a dent in to her daily “to-do” list. But leaving was not an option: Joy needed answers – answers that Ask-a-Nurse and Google searches could not provide.
What began 6 months ago as a dull, throbbing ache blossomed into a chronic knife-piercing seizure. Last night, it struck at 11:30 PM, spitting her out of bed. She awakened on the floor in the fetal position, screaming. That’s why Joy sat in the examination room on her 37th birthday, feeling – for the first time in her life – vulnerable.
Two minutes passed before Old Spice closed the file and spoke.
“Five years of perfect physicals, now this. And no major changes?” he said.
“Major? No. Can’t think of any … except, well, I just celebrated my first anniversary.”
There was no escaping Old Spice’s penetrating stare. He had captain-like eyes: blue, inviting, trustworthy. He listened to Joy’s routine with interest: she worked 40 hours a week, hit the treadmill 3 days a week, 6 hours of sleep a night (give or take), 2 cups of Folgers, one lump of sugar, 2 servings of fruit a day, not enough vegetables.
“And what do you do to relax? Any hobbies? Social life?”
“I, uh … clean,” she said, tugging her ear, glancing again at the x-ray.
“You …clean? Really? Tell me about that.”
There was no mistaking the fascination in his voice: something in the way he said “clean.” Joy recognized the tone – one shared by fellow Germaphobes.
Within seconds, Joy’s secret world sprang to life. She began by touting Clorox Disinfecting “Pop Up” Wipes, Magic Erasers, magnetic air filter, White Glove Tests and brass fixtures that always needed polishing. Then, she mentioned “The House Cleaning Rotation” – her Michael Bolton CD collection. With candles flickering in every room, she scrubbed like a robot and fell in love within the first 10 seconds of every song. Her home was so clean, it squeaked … or at least it used to.
“Sounds like you live a 99.9-percent germ-free life …”
“Not any more. I’m married now.” Joy elaborated by rehashing last weekend’s purging: when – wearing latex gloves and a surgical mask, filling her ears with Bolton’s “Said I Love You But I Lied” – she scrubbed the toilet and yelled “it’s a bowl, not a tree” at her husband.
“You ever talk to him about this?”
“No. Confrontation isn’t my strong suit. Oprah’s right: I’m a sissy.”
“Say no more,” the doc said, scribbling on a prescription pad. “Give him this and come see me again in a couple of weeks.”
The note read:
“Your wife has a stress-induced ulcer. I give her 60 years to live. 75 tops. A little help around the house might ease her pain. And if it really hits the fan, I can hook you up with a catheter.”
How her husband responded and what happened next surpasses my ability to chronicle … without sacrificing credibility. The truth is the stuff of fairy tales and legends – where love conquers all, everyone lives happily ever after and Mr. Clean pops out of a bottle and grants a woman 3 wishes.
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