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Eating out can be a rather nasty business. Even in restaurants that exceed their state's cleanliness standards, food is generally handled by a succession of bare hands – some of them crawling with germs. Innumerable elements of the prototypical great dining experience – crowding together with friends, sharing appetizers, shaking the manager's hand at the end of an evening well-spent – are an epidemiologist's worst nightmare.
As servers, we're constantly exposed to all sorts of viruses. That's why it galls me that so many diners make the situation worse by ignoring hygiene altogether.
Of course, we can't quarantine cold-sufferers. But having the sniffles is not license to leave your wadded-up tissues all over your booth and half-sucked lozenges on your table. Why must so many diners treat linen napkins like handkerchiefs?
Other questionable behaviors are more hazardous still: I've had a half-dozen customers change their babies' diapers on the table. While I'm sure that's highly convenient for harried parents, who are likely immune to their bundle of joy's bodily fluids, it's also pretty insensitive.
Restaurants aren't supposed to be sterile environments. But I don't think that's an excuse for restaurant-goers to blithely ignore the health of their fellow patrons – and the people who serve them.
What do you think? Does leaving used tissues on the table really pose a problem? How should restaurants handle cold and flu season?