Frederick M. Hueston, PhD

It  was one of those really hot and humid days here in Florida. Thank goodness my favorite greasy spoon was open and had air conditioning. I grabbed my fedora, my keys, my mask, my gloves, my antibacterial wipes, my hand sanitizer, my UV sterilization wand and my HAZMAT suite and headed out the door.  You think I’m joking? Remember, this is Florida we’re talking about. Anyway, little did I realize that all of these precautions against the virus was going to come in handy in my inspection later that day.

I arrived at the diner, opened the door and was immediately greeted by Flo, who was holding a bottle of hand sanitizer and one of those pistol-like laser thermometers. She motioned for me to stand on an X they had placed near the door with a sign that said  Stay 6 feet apart. She pointed the laser at me, said “Who’s that good-looking ole man under that mask?” and then proceeded to ask me a bunch of questions about my health.  I answered no to all her exposure questions, and then asked her if I needed a prescription for a cup of coffee and breakfast. Judging by her eyes, I think she smiled, but it was impossible to see with most of her facing hidden behind her own mask.

 I walked in to sit at my favorite stool, only to find it was taped with a sign that said DON’T SIT HERE. Fortunately, the stool next to it was open, so I sat down. The first thing I noticed was the usual condiments on the counter were missing, namely ketchup, steak sauce, Hot sauce, salt and pepper. And the countertop smelled faintly of bleach.  Welcome to the new normal, I told myself.  Flo came back behind the counter and poured me a cup of joe and I ordered some sterile eggs…wait a minute aren’t eggs sterile already? This whole virus recovery thing has me thinking of all kinds of odd thoughts. 

As I was about to dig into my breakfast, my cell phone rang. I answered it and the lady on the other end sounded like she was about to cry. She told me that her granite countertop was infected, and she asked if I would come out and take a look.  I had no idea what she was talking about, but she had my curiosity. I asked her why she thought it was infected, and if so, infected with what. She said she would have to show me, and it was urgent – she needed me to come out and see it today.  Well, things were a little slow and I was really perplexed by what she was talking about. Her house was only 20 minutes across town, so I told her I would be there in about an hour or so.  

By the end of our conversation, my darn breakfast had gotten cold, so I asked Flo if she could warm it up.  Suitably fortified with fresh coffee, I finished my eggs and headed out the door and down the road to see why this lady thought her countertop was infected.

I arrived at her house, parked the Woody, squirted some sanitizer on my hands, placed my mask and gloves on, and headed for the door.  I was about to ring the doorbell when I stopped within inches and thought, How am I going to sanitize my gloves again if I touch the doorbell? So I pressed it with my elbow. Within a second she answered the door wearing a full HAZMAT suite – the kind with the air tank. She introduced herself, handed me a pair of booties and one of those white Tyvek suits and said, “Put this on before you come in.” Wow, I thought. Well, at least she is being very cautious. 

I donned the suit and she led me to the kitchen. As we entered the kitchen, I got a whiff of what smelled like an outhouse. She pointed to the countertop and it looked fine but than she pointed to the ceiling. She told me that the upstairs toilet had overflowed and leaked all on the countertop. OK, now I know why she thought it was infected.  I could have taken some swabs, placed them in some Petri dishes, sent them off to a lab, but I told her that her granite could be easily disinfected. She said,  “What about sanitizing it?” I had to explain to her that there was a difference between sanitizing and disinfecting. I proceed to tell her that “sanitizing” would not necessarily kill any bacteria of virus, but “disinfecting” it would kill 100 percent of the contaminants.  I told her she could wipe it all down with rubbing alcohol and that would do the trick, or she could buy an over-the-counter disinfectant. I mentioned several brands that  she could buy. 

She seemed to be happy with my advice. She handed me a check and off I went before disposing of all my protective gear. This was one of the crappiest (literally) inspections I have ever done, and have a feeling there will be many more calls concerning disinfecting versus sanitizing.  For more info, be sure to see my article on my blog at . Another case for the “solved but weird” file.

The Stone Detective is a fictional character created by Dr. Frederick M. Hueston, PhD, written to entertain and educate. Dr. Fred has written over 33 books on stone and tile installations, fabrication and restoration and also serves as an expert for many legal cases across the world. Fred has also been writing for the
Slippery Rock for over 20 years. 

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