Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Five-second Rule

I recently attended a cat show in Brentwood, NY (Long Island), a show I’ve gone to twice before. This year, weather permitting, I wanted to try the Mapquest recommended route of taking the ferry from nearby New London, CT across the Long Island Sound to Orient Point and driving another 90 minutes to the show. Driving the entire route was listed as 3 hours, 30 minutes, assuming there was no traffic on a Friday afternoon going toward New York City, over the Throgs Neck Bridge and on the Long Island Expressway. 

Since it was cool outside, I opted to leave the two cats I was showing in their crate in the car during the ferry ride, figuring it would be easier than trying to lug two carriers through the ferry. Clair, the Selkirk Rex Longhair and Trixie, the Maine Coon kitten, would remain in the large crate together in my back seat, their litter box readily accessible.

Clair and Trixie
This worked out really well. The car stayed at a comfortable temperature for the cats. For $57, I avoided the city traffic, bridges and tolls, had an hour and 20 minute ferry ride then drove from the northern tip of Long Island to the show hotel. I never knew there was so much rural land and vineyards on Long Island. I definitely wanted to take the ferry back home now.

After I left the show early on Sunday to avoid the expected snow storm, I again took the ferry route. I called the ferry people ahead of time to see if I could show up 4 hours earlier than my reservation. I could.

Cats safely snuggled in together in the car, I went upstairs to appreciate the view from the front of the boat. As all the tables along the front window were taken, I sat in one of the theater-style seats about 15 feet back from the front tables. My view was of the tables and beyond that, Long Island Sound as the ferry sailed toward New London.

The table directly in front of me had a young family seated at it, with two adorable little girls between the approximate ages of three and five years. The girls were being kept busy with activity books and video games. Each girl had a pacifier in her mouth. When the girls spoke, the pacifier stayed in, waggling like Groucho Marx’s cigar as they said words I couldn’t understand. Their parents obviously understood Paci-ese, answering questions or denying requests. If the girls ate any of the snacks in front of them, the pacifier came out, the food went in and they plugged their mouths back up with the pacifiers almost immediately.

Cringing as I was at the speech impediments allowed in their daughters’ mouths at such formidable ages, I noted that the parents seemed to be educated and attentive to their children. The youngest had a tendency to speak loudly (even with the pacifier) and her parents hushed her each time she did so, making her keep her voice down to a normal level. I wondered if the kids were the kind who would act out if their mouths weren’t plugged up all the time, but they seemed well-behaved for their ages. There was no crying, tantrums or whining. Most babies need to suckle something, but these children were beyond the toddler stage, potty trained and very verbal. The oldest was probably in a pre-school program.

At one point, the mother took the oldest girl over to where a service dog was seated with its owner. The black lab had the brightly colored harness on, but the owner was open to letting children pet her dog. After a few minutes, the child thought it would be fun to pretend to be a dog herself and got down on her hands and knees, barking. Mom immediately told her daughter to get off the dirty floor. As the child stood up, her pacifier fell out of her mouth mid-bark, hitting the floor. The little girl quickly squatted down and put it back in her mouth. Her mother was offended about the dirty pacifier going into her daughter’s mouth, pulled it out of her child’s and “cleaned it off” by, you guessed it, putting it into her own mouth. After "cleaning" the pacifier, the mother popped it back in her daughter’s mouth.

Ew! I’ve never understood this practice, but have seen it before. Some mothers have told me they’re “flavoring” the pacifier. I’ve raised two children, have utilized the “five-second rule” in controlled situations (fairgrounds, no; my kitchen floor, yes), and sit my bare butt on public toilets if the need arises. I am not a germaphobe, but I just don’t get the paci-mouth-cleaning thing.

Not too surprisingly, pediatricians discourage this practice, because, guess what, mother's mouths are full of harmful bacteria, germs and swear words. Among the objects listed as cleaner than a human mouth are a public toilet, subway railings, and urine.

I was amazed to find through my extensive 3-minute Google research that there is one theory that actually supports parents who mouth-clean their child’s pacifier, arguing the practice may be boosting the child’s immune system. If that’s the belief, why not just forego cleaning the pacifier at all and let the kid lick the floor?