Joanne Palmer: Getting the January grumbles |

Joanne Palmer: Getting the January grumbles

Joanne Palmer

In 1989, Joanne Palmer left a publishing career in Manhattan and has missed her paycheck ever since. She is a mom, weekly columnist for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, and the owner of a property management company, The House Nanny. Her new book "Life in the 'Boat: How I fell on Warren Miller's skis, cheated on my hairdresser and fought off the Fat Fairy" is now available in local bookstores and online at or

— I hate January. There are 31 long, dark days to watch your mailbox for W-2 forms, get ready for the State of the Union snooze fest or, if you are truly bored, ponder whether Tiger and Elin will reconcile.

Ho. Ho. Hum.

If your brain cells, like mine, have died off by the tribillions during the glorious, gluttonous month of December, you may not have enough remaining brainpower to contemplate anything more complex than hand sanitizer. Yes, hand sanitizer. I am fed up with hand sanitizer. January does that to me. Things that ordinarily do not bother me February through December get my goat in January.

I'm annoyed I did not invent hand sanitizer, as I would be a tribillionaire by now. A quick Google — something else I failed to invent — search shows that hand sanitizer was created by the entrepreneurial duo of Jerry and Goldie Lippman. In 1946, the Lippmans worked in rubber plants in Akron, Ohio, and had difficulty ridding their hands of things like graphite, tar and carbon black. They invented a grease-cutting soap that could be used with or without water and named it "GoJo" after themselves. In 1988, Gojo introduced Purell Instant Hand Sanitizer, the No. 1 brand of instant hand sanitizer in America.

Fast-forward to today, and you can find hand sanitizer everywhere. If you're in the throes of cabin fever and need some fun, grab a bottle of hand sanitizer and slather it on every inch of your body, then shrink-wrap yourself, and you'll be protected against cooties from A to Z. The clear goop is free and can be found anywhere and everywhere a germ can possibly be. Gas stations, restaurants and especially schools all are doing the hand sanitizer boogie.

Ho. Ho. Hum.

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I know, I know. Hand sanitizer is the great gooey weapon against influenza. No one likes to be sick, especially with some deadly strain of flu. But isn't it a bit like pitting a mouse against a moose? Is alcohol-laden hand sanitizer really going to keep us healthy? And what about the cost? According to the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Public Schools spent $45,000 in 2009 to provide dispensers and two eight-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer for every classroom. That's a chunk of change. Couldn't children wash their hands with soap and water and spend $45,000 on books for the library instead? Or add more fruits and vegetables to school lunches?

Hand sanitizer smells worse than your hands ever did. In order to be effective, it has to contain at least 60 percent alcohol — approximately the same amount of alcohol as a bottle of whiskey. Some schools require it be used under adult supervision for fear of young children becoming intoxicated. And it is flammable.

Should we change the name of our country from the United States of America to the Sanitized States of America? Are we on the verge of becoming a nation of obsessive germ­aphobes? Where does all this goo go? Is it absorbed into our skin as some artery-clogging germ fighter?

If a flu or cold bug wants me, I figure it will invade my aging body, and there isn't a whole lot I can do about it. Besides, in order to build up your immune system, you have to have some exposure to germs, and unfortunately, you can't cherry-pick which ones.

By the time this column appears, January will be almost over. I will stop obsessing about hand sanitizer and move on to coming up with an invention that will make me a tribillionaire.

In the meantime, I wish you good health and lots of hand washing — with soap and water.