Christmas and the winter holidays are, for many of us, definitely the “most wonderful time of the year” as the popular tune says. It’s also a time when people travel and welcome travelers to celebrate. It’s also the time of year when you might be gifted with something you definitely don’t want, like a virus.
I travel with the band, and I’m always reminding everyone about taking steps to avoid getting those nasty bugs looking for new hosts. It’s also a wonderful time for those bugs, and it’s a good idea to think ‘gig-giene’ or hygiene in general.
One major culprit for transmission, in my opinion, is the cell phone. People often hand you their phone so you can view a photo or, as happened with Rebecca recently, take a photo of their table. I’d be willing to bet if you tested a cell phone—anyone’s—you’d find lots of nasty minuscule creatures doing a dance on the surface. Phones require hands, and hands can be dirty even if they look clean. So my advice is, if you handle someone’s cell phone, go wash your hands.
There’s also the bane of coffee drinkers. Those pots in service centers along major interstates do usually deliver pretty good coffee if it’s been prepared recently. But think about the handle on the pot. How many hands touch it? How clean are all those hands? My tip here is to use a paper towel to wrap around the handle if you’re going to pour.
I do the same thing if I use a public restroom—I use a paper towel to turn the door knob or latch.
The same process applies to salt and pepper shakers and any other item sitting on a restaurant table. Pepper grinders are popular now, but you have to really grasp the top in order to grind the pepper. Lots of hands on these items.
Your hands aren’t necessarily any cleaner than another person’s. So if you are about to touch your eyes or any other spot on your face, wash your hands first.
If you work in a public setting, you already will be exposed to all sorts of viruses. In the South, we hug a lot, and that always presents an opportunity for a virus to find a new home. After all, that’s the goal of a virus—to find a cozy spot to reside. It’s a good idea to put a little distance between you and anyone who has signs of a cold.
People often shake hands nowadays, so washing your own hands regularly makes sense. Sometimes I wonder if we didn’t lose some protection from sickness when we women stopped wearing those cute white gloves popular in the 1940s and before.
This all probably sounds a little overly enthusiastic when it comes to germs. However, for working musicians who go at it fulltime, getting sick is a costly and precarious development. It’s never good when you have to cancel a gig if you’re sick. The venue, even if it’s a regular client, will likely not be happy to have to find a performer at the last minute. Then there’s the revenue—you don’t work, you don’t get paid.
Working musicians deal with just about every risk factor out there. From unpredictable weather to unpredictable technology, you deal with solving problems you probably never envisioned.
So employ a little gig-giene, or at least bear in mind you can do some things to avoid sickness and down time. Viruses strike throughout the year, but during the holidays, risk goes up simply because most of us are around more people and many of us travel.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) headline, “Clean Hands Save Lives” may sound overly dramatic, but in the end, it represents common sense. If you’re not scrubbing your hands for 20 seconds before you rinse off the soap, you’re not doing it right. Viruses aren’t the only critters you have to worry about when it comes to hands—some very unpleasant bacteria come into play as well. One study the CDC linked to tested the hands of 26 adult volunteers, finding:
“In quantitative cultures from five subungual spaces in 26 subjects, coagulase-negative staphylococci were the dominant organisms, with Staphylococcus epidermidis, S. haemolyticus and S. hominis being the most frequently isolated species.”
Gig-giene may save you time and money. Embrace it.
(Kay B. Day/11-30-18)