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Eating dirt builds character

Posted March. 13, 2009



I have a confession. I drink tap water, I have eaten something that fell on the floor because it fell under the jurisdiction of the five second rule, I have eaten a hot dog that I bought from a street vendor in Los Angeles, and when I was little I used to play in the dirt and I am quite sure that I have consumed dirt and possibly a bug or two.

None of these types of things phased me until I started using the Internet frequently.

Now I check the Internet daily, and sometimes several times a day.

And the one thing that has really changed is that I have to be careful to not allow myself to become a hypochondriac and a germaphobe.

This is especially difficult when opening up a certain site on which I have an e-mail account.

Every time I pull up the page I am immediately drawn to the little thumbnail pictures that are associated with articles about how you are going to drop dead if you drink another drop of tap water and if you do not stop wearing flip flops you are surely going to get some strange mutating fungus that will eat your leg in a matter of minutes.

All joking aside, I have found this to be a serious problem that I have had to fight a bit to bring into check.

I used to subscribe to WebMD. What I discovered was that I was only doing myself a disservice by self-diagnosing and coming up with some ridiculous diagnoses.

I cancelled my subscription, but then the endless e-mails started.

With the advent of the Internet and e-mail, many people are calling fact what they would have scoffed at years ago. But because they see it on the Internet, it must be true. All tap water must be dangerous.

But in reality, it is not just the Internet, which has made this phenomenon of paranoia and fear of germs etc. more common, it is a change in our culture.

Everybody now seems so scared of everything. Children now are not out playing in the dirt because, “they might get dirty and those nasty, nasty germs are in the dirt.” And if some parents even see their child contemplate playing with something as harmless as a roly poly, they pull out the antibacterial gel faster than John Wayne pulling out a gun to shoot the bad guy.

I am not that old, but I feel like I grew up in a different world than the one that exists today.

On weekends my mom would turn us loose and we would play outside all day. We played in the sandbox, the dirt, in trees, everywhere.

On some weekends my dad took us out to catch polliwogs, salamanders, lizards and frogs. We used to play in creeks and mud and open areas of grass.

If we ever made a face or gave him a hard time about playing outside he would look us straight in the eye and say “it builds character,” and that was that.

My mom never had antibacterial hand gel, and we never contracted any weird diseases.

If my mom had followed all of the modern rules and regulations of parenting, my sister and I probably never would have left the house and we would have lived in giant plastic bubbles playing video games while our brains rotted.

But I suppose a rotting brain is better than coming in contact with those nasty germs that are everywhere.

If all of the new hype about germs and bad things in water are true, I suppose drinking tap water will probably kill me, but there are worse ways to go.

I can see it now.

“Woman found dead after drinking copious amounts of tap water while wearing flip flops.”

Susan Acker, a senior journalism major, is editor in chief of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at susan.acker@laverne.edu.