The discovery of germs is certainly one of humanity’s greatest scientific achievements.
But the obsessive-compulsive behavior to eliminate all germs is not only freaky, it is counter-productive. Humans have a fine symbiotic relationship with our microbe friends.
Some people feel a panic when just thinking that THERE ARE GERMS ON THIS FAUCET! ON THIS DOOR HANDLE! That’s why paper towels are strewn over the floor of restrooms, as people use the towel to open the door and simultaneously dispose of the icky thing before it bites.
Outside of hospitals, Americans are way too concerned about germs. Another symptom of this is the paranoia about having dogs anywhere near food sales. Dogs are typically banned from restaurants, grocery stores, and coffee shops—despite the fact that dogs visit hospitals all the time to lift spirits.
It wasn’t always this way. My local coffee shop used to let me settle in with my Shetland sheepdog at my feet, to savor a cup and mingle with others so inclined. Then the dreaded health inspector showed up and put the kibosh on the practice.
I’m all in favor of health inspectors. It’s much easier for a knowledgeable inspector to check ovens, examine fridges and freezers, and otherwise provide the public with valuable information about roaches and expired meats. I’m much more worried about flaws of human nature and sloth than I am about dogs transmitting disease.
Let the market decide—a consumer can readily see dogs at an outdoor café and make an informed decision about whether to partake. Consumers cannot readily see the mold in the ventilation system or the dated raw oysters.
Fortunately, a number of states have started allowing restaurant owners to decide for themselves who their patrons will be: California, Florida, and Maryland, for example. Last summer I spent several delightful weeks in Turkey, where diners were regularly treated to the happy and docile companionship of canines while they dined al fresco. It felt more human eating around pets, and not making a federal case of it.