Pinky Pie

Purell, Common Sense & Me

Posted on: October 3, 2009


Our buddy, Purell

Our buddy, Purell

I’m picturing the Chicago Board of Trade, that huge madhouse of a room, where commodities traders yell their buys and sells amid flying paper.

In this case, I imagine shouts for hog, er swine, er H1N1 “futures” with many traders competing for thousand pound hunks of hog. In my imagination, traders immediately follow those buys and sells with shouts for Purell “futures.”

In this year of swine – H1N1 – flu, the big winner is Purell (and I know it’s not really sold as a commodity in Chicago).

Purell is that hand sanitizer made by Johnson & Johnson that has become synonymous with fighting swine flu. Stores, offices, clinics, hospitals and schools have invested a fortune in Purell, putting dispensers throughout their buildings.

Never leave home without it, we are told, and use sanitizing wipes when you enter the grocery store to wipe down the grocery cart. Some people have even suggested we don’t shake hands this season. Or quickly pull out the bottle of Purell after you do. How friendly that would be.

There are generic versions of hand sanitizer, but the common jargon for the stuff is “Purell,” much like Kleenex is the common term for the tissues that we run for when our noses run.

How crazy should we be this season?  With a lowered immune system because of chemo, I can get a little paranoid, looking around to see if anyone is coughing or sneezing around me. I want to avoid sick people.

My nose was running the other night, which prompted me to wonder if during the night I should rush to the bathroom to wash my hands every time I blow my nose. Or should I keep Purell by my bedside? What a restful night.

Friday was my nadir blood test – the idea is to learn how low my white cells, red cells and platelets dropped after chemo.

So while I was talking to the nurse drawing my blood, I asked how paranoid I should be about germs, including whether I needed good hand washing in the middle of the night. Mitch kindly responded that they were my own germs and I can’t re-infect myself.


I’ve discovered common sense is a commodity that is greatly needed while being treated for cancer. Unfortunately, I don’t always have a ton of common sense so I will continue to ask many “duh” questions, not that the person answering would have say that.

Years ago when my youngest was going into kindergarten and I was going on the PTA board, we heard a speaker from the state Parent Teacher Association. She talked about the benefits of the organization, including the PTA’s Common Sense Program, an educational curricula for elementary school kids.

I actually turned to my friend Dorothy in the midst of the presentation and asked in all sincerity, “Did I miss common sense?”

Dorothy paused, trying to decide how to put it.

“Yes, Sue,” she said. “You missed common sense.”

I could not stop laughing for the rest of the meeting.

My missing common sense was very, very true. To ask that question only confirmed it.

Perhaps, it’s a commodity I could buy on  the Chicago Board of Trade.


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