Leave your terrorist fist bump at home, because it'll spread the dreaded swine flu (I heard somewhere that's why the terrorists made it up and Obama tried to popularize it). NPR has a funny article up of alternatives to touching people in everyday situations. This Larry Craig-inspired gesture I like:
Because of certain lifestyle choices, I'm at a fairly high risk for getting the swine flu. I just started another year as an paraprofessional educator at three elementary schools teaching English to several hundred little kids a week. If that wasn't enough risk, these kids are mostly French, meaning that hygiene isn't really a part of their culture.
But kissing hello is. I don't kiss the kids, but I do sometimes use the handrails on stairs (trying to avoid that now), breathe the same air, use the same chalk and markers as the teacher does.... Last school year I worked here, I was sick around six times, four of which were in just two months.
I wash my hands as much as possible, but even that's an occupational hazard. French elementary school bathrooms usually don't have liquid soap - they spring only for a big yellow bar of soap on a bar mounted to the wall next to the sink. And paper towels? That's a waste, of course, but don't expect to see an air dryer either. Most schools I work in have a cotton towel hanging on a rack near the bathroom exit. I don't have the courage to touch it.
The kids sneeze in the air, they touch each other and put their pencils and pens in their mouths and then touch their papers, and they're closed in with thirty of their equally dirty peers for six hours a day. It's an environment that's just asking for trouble.
And yet, as I posted a while back, it's obviously my choice to work with them. It's work that's rewarding in other ways, and since I get plenty of time off, I have time to keep working on Bilerico and on other freelance projects I enjoy doing. But it does increase my burden on the health care system, just as other lifestyle choices do.
While we're having big discussions about why some people should be left to die because we shouldn't be forced to subsidize people's bad lifestyles - like fat people, HIV-positive people, and undocumented immigrants - why isn't anyone talking about those people who work in elementary schools? I know teachers are almost universally beloved (except by the fundies), but, trust me, they're just as good of people as everyone else and they're fully capable of being jerks, just like everyone else. Why don't we tell these people that they can't have Thremaflu if they get the swine flu, since their dangerous lifestyle led to their illness?
Anyway, I found NPR's article hilarious, and I hope "the Larry Craig" (my term, not theirs) catches on. Foot tapping is a respectable way to show affection for others, but I'm not even going to let my shoe touch the French elementary school bathroom towel.