Saliva Guy

We had to go to Tucson the other day for a doctor’s appointment. We went for breakfast at a family-style chain restaurant called Coco’s, similar to a Denny’s. The waitress was friendly and the service good. We were led to a comfy booth with a big window. The waitress went to get coffee while I took stock of my setting, and that’s when I noticed—we were surrounded by dead flies, debris, grit, and smears of unknown substances all along the top of the booth and the deep inset windowsill. The lovely large window had blinds—brown with crusted dirt and dust and grease. Also within my view was the big glass inner door of the restaurant, opaque from greasy fingers.

Maybe people don’t notice because we’re focused on the tables. But once you’re seated and start to become familiar with your environment, a booth is an intimate view of just how dirty most restaurants are. We ordered while some drama unfolded in the next booth. A man poured maple syrup over his pancakes and stuck his finger in that last drip when you tilt the container back up. He ran his finger around the rim of the syrup pitcher and then licked his finger.

Sitting there among my small dead companions and my feral neighbor, I didn’t really want to touch, use, or eat anything on the table. And what of those big laminated menus?

I’ve become kind of obsessive over the past few years about touching things that a million people have touched. Most people know that grocery carts are the biggest villain, often teeming with the big five: blood, mucus, saliva, urine, and feces. Other miscreants are door handles, pens, the stylus you sign with at the pharmacy or UPS, and purses and backpacks that have been on floors. Most supermarkets have disposable wipes available at their entrances now.

I may come off as OCD or as having some other unhealthy condition (which I do but it’s not this), but it’s a really big deal if I get sick. Like many other independents the recession has created, I don’t get paid if I don’t work. So I take getting sick hard, refusing help of any kind and becoming generally insufferable. All I want is to go to ground like a sick animal. So I’m careful about what I touch, and it’s become second nature.

I don’t live in a sterile environment at all. I live with a big pack of dirty beasts. But somehow all of them put together aren’t as dirty as a guy whose saliva ends up on a condiment jar in a restaurant. A family restaurant can be a savage land.

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9 responses to “Saliva Guy

  1. For years I delivered Milk products to restaurants all over eastern Virginia. There are still places I won’t go to because I know their kitchen is an orgy of filth working towards an orgasm of disease.
    Floors so greasy one could slip, fall, and disappear in the same spot.
    “Where’d Reggie go?”
    “Man, the floor got him. Told him to wear non-skid shoes…he’d gone now.”
    I once heard a warning about Doctor’s ties. They pick up airborne diseases and are rarely dry cleaned… ugh…

  2. Or how about the doctors themselves. Avoid if possible.

    I did a couple years in restaurants way back—everybody should. (Did you ever see Waiting? Don’t listen to reviews it’s a staple rerun in my house—classic line “Don’t fuck with the people who handle your food.”)

    We’re taking a risk every time we bite into something we didn’t prepare ourselves…

  3. OK, I’m scared to go out to eat ever again now! I have not thought about this stuff, probably a forced amnesia in a way, but it is very true.

    Oddly, there used to be a Coco’s where I grew up in NY, didn’t realize they were still in business.

    One other thing to think about — my brother is a professional chef and he worked in a very high end restaurant in Manhattan for a few years. He said the kitchen was so damn hot, often around 115, with all the ovens and what-not. Well, that makes people sweat and when you need to get orders out sometimes, well, that sweat is on the food. YUCK! Think about it, spending all that money for food in a fancy restaurant and even then you can’t avoid such things. So, I might really never eat out again!

    • There’s one to add to the list! That doesn’t surprise me about the sweat. It’s the same thing when I’m cleaning a house—if they don’t provide some relief I’m gonna drip on their stuff. It’s only natural. I can stifle a cough or a sneeze, but there ain’t no way to stop the sweat!

      What about a chef with an attitude, a pissed-off waitress, an anti-social bus boy—who knows what lurks? I’ve had a couple high-pressure restaurant jobs in my life and both customers and waitstaff can be real assholes. Did you ever hear of Carbone’s in Hartford? Snippy stuck-up overblown “ristorante”—owners were SO mean—here’s another fluid to add to the list—tears!

  4. One of my x-co workers, known for her lack of toilet hygiene, always elected to serve at office B-day parties. Moral, don’t eat if you didn’t serve it.

    • I’ve become more paranoid and careful about who touches my chow. One thing for sure—I will never stick my hand into a bowl of nuts or chips or something. Also never touch public doorknobs or pens.

  5. I am not obsessive compulsive and I am fed up with labels put on people who enjoy keeping their castle clean. If I had a restaurant, cleanliness would be my top priority. I like things in order. I find most people don’t care. I care.

    • Hi Livvy, I’m not OCD either but can’t help but see the filth. Restaurant bathrooms all have signs now to wash your hands but I guess that doesn’t apply to licking bottles. We can’t be the clean police, so we have to take the initiative to be careful. I haven’t touched public door handles in years. Can’t afford to get sick.

      • Have you had an opportunity to see the roadside bathrooms in Italy. Spotless. Also in Luxembourg. And the restaurants – you could eat off the floor.

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