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Tilting at Windmills

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May 14, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

SHOPPING CARTS....I'm fighting off a cold. Blecch. I blame unsanitary shopping carts.

What else could it be? For years I've been mocking those antibacterial wipes that supermarkets have started putting out by the shopping carts. Just more yuppie idiocy, I figured, part of the trend toward protecting ourselves from every remote possibility of harm no matter how dumb. I mean, how paranoid do you have to be to insist on wiping down your shopping cart before you head into the store?

Well, fine. I'm a believer now. Push a shopping cart around on Sunday and get sick on Monday. QED. Just like those telephone handset sanitizers from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. You might call this the addled logic of a sick man, and you'd be right, but I don't care. No more shopping carts for me.

Anyway, if I write anything dumber than usual today, that's why. Blame the disease. Please.

Kevin Drum 11:57 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (71)

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Comments

Immune system: use it or lose it.

Posted by: SJRSM on May 14, 2008 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

Get well soon. My bet is the shopping cart had nothing to do with it.

Posted by: on May 14, 2008 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

SJRSM says quite concisely what I was going to say.

Mrs. T makes me wash my hands every time I come home from outside. I make fun of her, but it works. I've gone from several colds a year to one every few years.

I'm not a biologist, but I think that antibacterial wipes are of little use against a viral infection, which is what a cold is. Any biologists should feel free to correct me.

Get well.

OT: How 'bout them inflation figures, eh? Everything's fine after all, I guess.

Posted by: thersites on May 14, 2008 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

And don't go out in the rain, because you might catch cold.

Posted by: Granny on May 14, 2008 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

What a concept, so why haven't they been doing that in my part of the country?

I mean really - you are putting food into the thing for heaven sakes. Antibacterial wipes should be FDA requirement for every supermarket out there, so I have wonder where Wal-mart will standing on this issue. Knowing how they screw their won employees over, you know they really don't care about the health of their shopper either.

Posted by: me-again on May 14, 2008 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

Just like those telephone handset sanitizers from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

We're all children of the "B" Ark.

Posted by: Cap'n Phealy on May 14, 2008 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

I bet it was the handles on the doors of the refrigerated foods section!! Yeh dats what it was..Or those seperator things one puts on the conveyor!! Yeh, yeh dats da culprit! Or maybe it was coins, coins are filthy!! Yeh its da money that mad ya sick!! Or maybe it was that apple that was groped by who knows how many people before you bought it!! Yeh, they should put anti-bacterial wipes in the produce section!! Yeh dat would cure da prob!!!

Posted by: Jet on May 14, 2008 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

I think Thersites is correct in assuming that anti-bacterial wipes are useless against viruses (viri?).

But also, doesn't it usually take a bit longer than 24 hours after being exposed to a "bug" before the symptoms show up. So it may not have been the sticky grocery cart (which I hate too), but might have been something else you contacted earlier in the week.

Please make certain to not breath on Inkblot. Apart from that - plenty of vitamin C, rest, fluids ....

Posted by: optical weenie on May 14, 2008 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, the Ralph's Nazis finally caught up with you: yes, the shopping carts are contaminated with germs, but the RALPH'S SHOPPERS CLUB BARCODE CARDS are impregnated with antibacterials. Your silly pseudo-libertarian phobia of loyalty cards is to blame.

(BTW, and I'm sure people challenged you on your quarterly "I hate loyalty cards" post the other day, but just how, exactly, do you reconcile your love of a national ID card with your fear of loyalty cards?)

Posted by: The Confidence Man on May 14, 2008 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

It's not the cart...it's those machines you slide or debit card thru and punch in your pin #.

Posted by: jerri on May 14, 2008 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

That's why women are supposed to shop, not men. From an evolutionary point of view, they have greater immunological defenses against minor infectious bacteria. By the way, that's why women are supposed to cook too.

Posted by: gregor on May 14, 2008 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

Bank repossessions jumped 145 percent in April from a year earlier to 54,574, according to Irvine, California-based RealtyTrac. The company has database of more than 1.5 million properties and monitors foreclosure filings including defaults notices, auction sale notices and bank seizures.

Banks will seize about 60,000 properties a month through December, when about 1 million U.S. homes, or a quarter of all homes for sale, may be bank-owned, Rick Sharga, RealtyTrac's executive vice president of marketing, said in an interview.

The economy is great! Vote McSame!!
//McSnark On//

Yeh, dats da ticket, it was foreclosures dat mad ya sick, yeh!

Posted by: Jet on May 14, 2008 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

Problem with your logic, Kevin, is that it ignores the fact that the incubation period for a virus you "pick up" to develop into a cold is 7-14 days. Not one day. If you want to place the blame...think about where you were LAST week.

Posted by: Marcia on May 14, 2008 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

If that's true gregor, then why is it that men are responsible for taking out the garbage, and scooping the dog poop from the backyard? - 2 venues with considerable germ potential.

Posted by: optical weenie on May 14, 2008 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

I advise young people not to take ecstasy. I advise everyone to take Ester C, though.

Posted by: Brojo on May 14, 2008 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

Antibacterials are useless against viruses (yeah, it should be viri but it's not. Heresy!) but you don't have to kill the virus to be effective. All you need to do with the wipe is to wipe the little germie off the handle and onto the wipe. It's just like mopping dirt off the floor.

And don't even get me started on giving consumers anti-bacterial products. May as well put DDT back on the market.

Posted by: Algerine on May 14, 2008 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

New trend: Shop with a Hazmat suit. Hey, we might need to wear them whenever we go out.

"You look dashing in that MeiTian; I especially love that flared collar accent"

Posted by: CSTAR on May 14, 2008 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe you should get a gig writing over at the Corner when you're sick.

Posted by: Winston Smith on May 14, 2008 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

WIkipedia, citing Lori McCoy's Rhinovirus: An Unstoppable Cause of the Common Cold" in The Science Creative Quarterly says "The incubation period is generally 8-10 hours before symptoms begin to occur."

I had previously been certain it was a 48 hour incubation.

Posted by: Daddy Love on May 14, 2008 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

then why is it that men are responsible for taking out the garbage, and scooping the dog poop from the backyard? - 2 venues with considerable germ potential.

Too easy. Both of these facts are true only in societies which try to go against the dictates of the basic principles of evolutionary biology.

Posted by: gregor on May 14, 2008 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Weenie: I think Thersites is correct
(Clutching at heart. Gasping for breath.)
Can't ... breathe ... shock too much ....

Brojo at 12:31 -- that's pretty good. You forgot to tell us to tip the bartenders and waiters, though.

Posted by: thersites on May 14, 2008 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Nurse Ratched - Could you bring Thersites a defibrillator, STAT

Posted by: optical weenie on May 14, 2008 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking of shopping carts.

If you're the person who leaves your shopping cart out in the parking lot, up against a lightpost, cocked up on the curb, squeezed in between parked cars, and so on, rather than taking a moment to steer it into the collection area, or to push it back into the store, please stop.

Man up, do what you know is right, and put it back where it belongs.

Posted by: Model 62 on May 14, 2008 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

some NYC subway riders wear gloves - all year round. those poles and straps get slimy and sticky. tip: punch ATM buttons with knuckles. pro cyclists do that. colds really ruin the Tour de France.

Posted by: jfc on May 14, 2008 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

I stick alcohol suffused cotton balls into all my public orifices before leaving my home. This protects me from everything and fills my brain with a nice necro-neurological hum.

Posted by: BombIranForChrist on May 14, 2008 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

Try homeopathy. Since I've been on it, I never get sick, and I use shopping carts every week.

Posted by: Fred S. on May 14, 2008 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

If your immune system is that weak, be thankful you don't have children.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on May 14, 2008 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

viri is the Latin nominative plural of vir, man.

Posted by: alice on May 14, 2008 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

Try homeopathy.

Having immigrated from a country where homeopathy, naturopathy and all sorts of pathys were commonplace only because of the general ignorance and superstitious nature of the populace, I always find it quite amusing to hear Americans swear by them.

Posted by: gregor on May 14, 2008 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

The Latin word is actually virus [not vir] = slime; poison; offensive smell. Its plural is viri.

BTW handwashing after returning from an outing and avoiding touching your mouth/nose/eyes [easier said than done] is IMHO more efficacious than antibacterial wipes. In any case, hope you feel better soon, Kevin.

Posted by: genome on May 14, 2008 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

If you have kids, you appreciate the wipes. They put their mouths on the handles. Or touch the handles then put their hands in their mouths. I'm all for the immune system, but I'm not going to suck on a shopping cart.

Posted by: SRN on May 14, 2008 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

I hate yuppies

Posted by: Gnossos on May 14, 2008 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

I hate yuppies

Posted by: Gnossos on May 14, 2008 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

I'm going to assume flu and recommend Sambucol's elderberry extract. Here's a recent article on it, which demonstrates that in preliminary studies it appears to be remarkably effective against even avian flu. http://www.israel21c.org/bin/en.jsp?enDispWho=Articles%5El1209&enPage=BlankPage&enDisplay=view&enDispWhat=object&enVersion=0&enZone=Health

Posted by: catherineD on May 14, 2008 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

According to Webster's, the plural form of virus is viruses. And Kevin, sorry to hear you got one. There have been some vicious ones in circulation this year. Be glad you have no use for public transportation.

Posted by: Gaia on May 14, 2008 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

If Kevin doesn't want to push shopping carts around anymore then I suspect he will be hitching Inkblot and Domino up to a granny cart for his next grocery adventure.

He'll have to put those seeing eye dog harnesses on them though, since I don't think ordinary pets are allowed in grocery stores.

Posted by: optical weenie on May 14, 2008 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

Weenie, I'm breathing again. Thanks for calling the nurse, but what's this jacket for? It's tough, typing with my nose.

Here's a lay-person's question, though, if there are any real biologists reading here. If you use a product that kills 99.9% of the bacteria on the doorknob or whatever, that leaves .1%. But those little bastards are probably very tough. Then they start breeding. Is this a long-term problem?

Posted by: thersites on May 14, 2008 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think ordinary pets are allowed in grocery stores.

Optical Weenie, are you referring to me as an ordinary pet?

Posted by: inkblot on May 14, 2008 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

thersites:

yeah, it's kind of a problem:
http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/eid/vol7no3_supp/levy.htm

Posted by: SRN on May 14, 2008 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin:

If you got sick on Monday, you were exposed no later than Thursday or Friday. It takes at least 3-4 days for a bug to incubate to the point that you have symptoms. So you need to think earlier...

Feel better soon.

Posted by: Colin on May 14, 2008 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Here's a lay-person's question, though, if there are any real biologists reading here. If you use a product that kills 99.9% of the bacteria on the doorknob or whatever, that leaves .1%. But those little bastards are probably very tough. Then they start breeding. Is this a long-term problem?

Only if they end up killing you.

Posted by: ExBrit on May 14, 2008 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, are you seriously suggesting that supermarkets put antibacterial wipes on the trolleys? Jesus wept, Americans are weird.

Posted by: Alex on May 14, 2008 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

Anyway, if I write anything dumber than usual today, that's why. Blame the disease. Please.

Yeah, right.

Posted by: Swan on May 14, 2008 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

Very much Chemtrails action in your area Kevin?

Posted by: R.L. on May 14, 2008 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

I pass on to you what has worked for me in preventing colds. I used to get them 3 and 4 per winter until a couple of years ago.

Fish oil. It comes in capsules so you never have to taste the nasty stuff. I take a 1200 mg cap with a big glass of OJ - (I figure what the heck, vitamin C's good, too) at breakfast and another capsule with lunch. That's it.

Haven't had a cold (or anything else) in 2 years

Posted by: Helena Montana on May 14, 2008 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

Anti-bacterial wipes are useless against viruses... but alcohol-based sanitizing lotion works fine. Especially in concentrations above 65%. Which makes you wonder why they mostly sell 62% lotion.

Posted by: Grumpy on May 14, 2008 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

Optical Weenie, are you referring to me as an ordinary pet?

Posted by: inkblot on May 14, 2008 at 1:51 PM

Sorry, sorry, sorry. I worded that improperly. What I was basically trying to get across is that public venues usually only allow animals who's primary function is to help handicapped people - like seeing-eye dogs.

Absolutely, irrefutably you are not ordinary my dear Inkblot. You are a very special pet. Third in the world after Cleopatra, The Empress of the Universe, and Mirin the minion.

Posted by: optical weenie on May 14, 2008 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

You are forgiven, my child. Go and sin no more.
And don't forget Thersites' beer.

Posted by: inkblot on May 14, 2008 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

Use a supermarket that delivers. No carts, no germs, no checkout lines. Safeway just went up to 12.95 to deliver in San Francisco, but it's worth every penny.

Posted by: Joshua Norton on May 14, 2008 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

ack, foiled by Thersites again!

Your hops aren't doing well. The weather has been unseasonably cold. It will be months before I can harvest them.

Posted by: optical weenie on May 14, 2008 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

Uggg, I got a cold two days ago. I started sneezing, just a little and thought it was an allergy. Then I noticed my throat was a little scratchy. I knew what was about to happen.

But catching a cold? It isn't easy. You need direct contact with a sneeze, or a nose-hand-nose contact with another person.

The flu is much easier to get. It can remain in the air for a few hours, so elevators, offices, etc.

The best defense is to stay away from anyone who is sneezing, and to keep you hands clean...and away from your face.

Posted by: tomj on May 14, 2008 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, genome, we know that "vir" is not the base word of "virus," which has no plural in Latin; that's the point of mentioning that "viri" is the plural of "vir." Wikipedia discusses this thoroughly in the "virus" article.

The appropriate plural is the English "viruses."

Posted by: alice on May 14, 2008 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

if you really want a cold/virus, go fly somewhere. especially through Las Vegas. if you layover for
a long time, hang out near the smoking lounges, and/or the slots machines, especially near the Las Vegas types, that look 70 (or older), but who are actually in their mid-forties. you won't have to touch anything, not even a shopping cart. (works for me...)

Posted by: Bones on May 14, 2008 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

People who talk about how they never get sick scare me in the same way as people who talk about how great it is that they barely sleep.

It's normal to get sick. Trying to find a cure for simple stuff like a cold seems to me like it's bound to cause more trouble than its worth.

Just take a day or two to rest up and you'll be fine. It's not a problem, it's just you being mortal.

Posted by: doug on May 14, 2008 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

Everytime someone wipes down a cart incompletely it expands the population of bacteria and viruses immune to whatever is supposed to be killing them.

"Anti-bacterial" means "Resistance-creating."

Wash your hands.

Posted by: cracked on May 14, 2008 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

Has anyone thought that the reason for these anti-bacterial wipes might be to outsource the cleaning of shopping carts to the customers?

Posted by: pobre basura blanca on May 14, 2008 at 6:18 PM | PERMALINK

All these nutbar home remedy suggestions make ME sick. The best way to stay healthy is exercise - at least a half hour of vigorous aerobic exercise (running, walking, swimming, name it) at least four times a week, augmented with resistance (free weights preferably) training will keep you healthier than all this granola/fish oil/elderberry garbage.

The human body is the only machine that wears out when you DON'T use it!

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on May 14, 2008 at 6:23 PM | PERMALINK

Deflator, don't be such a grouch.

Nutbars are fine. Personally, I prefer granola bars. Every time I get a cold, I eat a couple. Within a week or two, the cold goes away. Never fails.


Posted by: thersites on May 14, 2008 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

You know, may I suggest that after you touch the shopping cart that you um, WASH YOUR HANDS before touching your face or eating anything?

Just a suggestion.

Posted by: MNPundit on May 14, 2008 at 10:05 PM | PERMALINK

Hey Kevin,

As long as you don't pass it along to Inkblot and Domino. They neeed to be in optimum health for fab photos on Friday!

Posted by: Inkblot's Aunt on May 14, 2008 at 10:40 PM | PERMALINK

As others have stated, antibacterial wipes won't kill viruses. However, they will largely clean up the greasy fingerprints left by others which may contain cold or flu viruses. You won't get sick by touching these viruses with your hands but they can accidentally transfer to your mouth or nose and infect you. This is one of those things where normally the risk is small but at certain times it can pay to be vigilant.

I doubt it was the cart this time.

Posted by: Bill D. on May 14, 2008 at 10:50 PM | PERMALINK

Try taking the subway (or a bus) to work every day. Shopping carts won't worry you a bit.

Posted by: mroberts on May 14, 2008 at 11:31 PM | PERMALINK

Exorcism or wearing the knuckle bone of saint on a string about your neck is just as effective in keeping airborne viruses from invading your body.

When your working two minimum wage jobs without health insurance or sick leave you have to spread those germs around to make a living even if you have the plague.

Low Wage Slavery is a Health Problem.

Think Universal Health Care, the next time you get a cold or flu.

Posted by: deejaayss on May 15, 2008 at 1:53 AM | PERMALINK

If you're the person who leaves your shopping cart out in the parking lot, up against a lightpost, cocked up on the curb, squeezed in between parked cars, and so on, rather than taking a moment to steer it into the collection area, or to push it back into the store, please stop. Posted by: Model 62 on May 14, 2008 at 1:05 PM

I must rebutt to this. I am one such person and no, I will not man up.

Wal-mart now has those auto-check out stands so I do my own check out, rotating bag consoles so I practically bag my own groceries, and parking lots so large and full my car is usually a full three rows away from any visible cart corral.

Wal-Mart has relegated this volunteer work once done by paid store employees to me, and yet I still have to pay for my groceries, and Wal-Mart gets to save a few man-dollars to benefit the store's profit margin.

So, while Wal-Mart still pays cart-fetchers I will leave that cart hither and yon as I see fit. For myself it is sticking it to the man. For cart-fetchers everywhere, I am doing my part to keep Wal-Mart from automating them out of a job.

:)

Posted by: Zit on May 15, 2008 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

Good for you Zit! I feel the same way too, but I have to admit that if I am close to a corral I do put the cart back.

Posted by: optical weenie on May 15, 2008 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

kevin drum -

what's the latency of the disease you have acquired?

8 hours?

16 hours?

24 hours?

four days?

two weeks?

think carefully, kevin, have you been in europe recently?

you do know, don't you, that there is a deadly disease going around there with a latency of about one month?

the authorities don't like to talk much about it, as you can surely understand, being the tolerant and easy-going fellow you are.

good luck.

p.s. thank your lucky stars for cats. they may well have conditioned your immune system (see diamond, jared).

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