On the memory of touch in the time of social distancing — part two.


Yesterday, I accidentally touched my lip. I touched my lip with my glove. My OUTSIDE glove!

I don’t know about you, but each day I regularly confuse myself with my own strategies to stay safe when I go outside. I wear my soft leather winter gloves to open shop doors and pick food up off the shelf, but then I’ll remove my glove to extract my debit card from its case. Gripping the thin plastic in my outstretched fingers, I hover delicately, trying not to touch the contactless machine with my contactless card, while getting close enough to trigger the money-sucking beep.

As I wait for the cashier to confirm my purchase, I might absent-mindedly adjust my glasses with my exposed hand or maybe with my gloved hand. Some days I forget to put my glove back on as I am leaving the shop and, reverting to normalcy, push the shop door open with my bare hand. Now I get a shock if I touch metal or glass with my skin, the coolness of the smooth surface reminding me of the new protocols that I just failed to follow.

Of course, I can’t wait until I get back to the house to check my phone. I remove my glove again, using the fingerprint mode to unlock the dastardly device and the warmth of my finger tips to navigate across the seductively smooth screen to check for messages, messages that might have landed in the 2 mins since I last checked my phone. Meanwhile, I am holding the phone in its case with the other gloved hand.

On my excursion, within the space of ten to fifteen minutes, I have easily cross-contaminated everything in my possession. By now, I imagine the inside of my gloves are just as germ ridden as the outside, so most probably all this convoluted effort makes no difference at all.

Before I took to wearing gloves while shopping, I spent a week or so pushing and pulling public doors open with my sleeve pulled up across my hand. Moments after leaving a store, walking down the street, I’d feel an urge to itch my face. Conscientiously, knowing I shouldn’t touch my face with my hands, I use my sleeve instead to satisfy that compulsion — the very same sleeve that just opened a potentially contaminated door handle. I have to laugh, it is so ridiculous.

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