Put down the Germ and WALK AWAY

Advertising creatives are receptacles for useless information. We dump everything we find straight into our brains, let it seep out slowly. Hopefully, it leads to some interesting work. It can also have drastic repercussions.

Ever since I completed a print campaign for Purell Soap, I’ve become a full fledged germaphobe. I wash my hands constantly – 4 or 5 times a day. I scrub before I eat anything. I pound fists rather than shake hands. I de-MUNI-fy with antibacterial spray sanitizer after riding the metro.  If I forget to spray – it’s like skipping yoga for a day – something’s off.

Then it got worse. I started to realize how many surfaces my hands come into contact with everyday. Think about it. Then I paid attention to how often my hands make it into my mouth. It’s astounding. Automatic.

How other people do the exact same thing? Could I continue to trust them? I drew parallels with the ultimate health trap: ‘If you sleep with this person you sleep with everyone THEY slept with.’ Now I can’t touch a doorknob, ATM keypad, or shake hands with a stranger without wondering how many people had sex on them.

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Mornings

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It’s half past nine in the morning, yet even with the clocks moved up an hour the cold continues to suck the Upper Haight dry. We are now a crowd of thirty, loitering at the corner of Carl and Cole, a few with our backs toward the sun praying her rays will thaw frozen fingers, rubbing hands for the N-Judah to make an appearance. 3 minutes. That’s what the sign says. But everyone standing knows it’s late or at capacity, the mindless driver set to accelerate towards our stop, instructing on the PA: This train is full, there’s another one right behind me. So get back, before I run all you motherfuckers over. When the next one comes rolling down the hill at a quarter to ten, another ten have joined. Suits sync schedules into Blackberries, a blend of coffee and cigarette smoke snake out a young woman’s nose, last week’s Onion issue trampled into concrete.  We keep to ourselves mostly, for dignity’s sake, for staring would give away your bluff, staring would mean you desire conversation, dialogue, a collapse of that invisible formidable wall built to varying heights around all residents of San Francisco. So instead, you steal glances at your neighbors. Size up the mid level analyst to your right, the man with the camera to your left, all seeking position, you’re a physicist now, factoring the time and speed of the arriving train calculating exactly where you need to stand to be the first one on that first step on that next train. You motherfuckers. I don’t give a shit how fucking stuffed that next train is. I’m getting on.  Fuck everyone else. For a few seconds rules are suspended, the morning turned moronic while bodies swarm inside that squealing piece of metal pulling us away from flats and into the Financial District. Step up. Shoulders. Push. MOVE. Get Back. I’m here. You’re on my foot. Take my Elbow. Now we Exhale.  Then all those eyes. What are you fuckers looking at? Surprised? You made it, I made it. They’re upset that your elbow is in my ear, and their deepest concern whether any street rats from Haight and Masonic have made it on board, whether they’d need to flee to the next car to avoid the stink. Soon we’re at Castro and now the train pulls us underneath Market at a measured 50 mph. The farther we are the hotter it gets. The weight and pressure of your backpack struggles against the train’s erratic air conditioner, droplets of sweat tear down the blades of your back. Only at Powell do the bodies begin to diffuse outwards, the cars nearly empty at Montgomery. We come up for air, city odors swirling from sewers and gutters and dogs and shaggy bearded men holding crumbling cardboard signs and electrical wiring and chatter ready to strike you in the face. You wrench the stench of emissions, overpriced flower stands, metallic transit moving in every direction, bike messengers clicking walkie-talkies to locate their next parcel, out of town lawyers with a hand over their ear, smiling behind sunglasses though its too foggy to warrant their wearing, Japanese businessmen with foreign smokes in their mouths outside Bank of the Orient, underneath the all too familiar trail of weed streaming above our heads. You look around those first few mornings, wondering who’s high at 10:30 in the morning, if it traveled from the Haight, maybe the Mission, perhaps by train, by bus, then realize its always been there, will always be there, your detective work set aside so you can focus on crossing against the green, against tinted limousines and disgruntled taxi drivers determined to cross through Sansome’s human traffic and make it to Jackson before you do.