My mother always ended every phone conversation with an admonition: “Be careful.” I do the same with my kids and grandkids. But, the truth is it’s just about impossible to really be careful. Sure you shouldn’t text and drive, or cross against the light. That’s obvious. But how careful can you really be? Not very!

This morning I read that  a NJ dental surgeon had caused 15 patients to contract a heart infection called endocarditis. One of them died.  While investigating some of the earlier cases the wise State of NJ allowed him to continue practicing.  His instruments were not properly cleaned.  It was only due to the luck, vigilance, and diligence of a local medical doctor who saw two cases of the uncommon infection and learned that both of those patients had recently been to the same oral surgeon, that the case was solved. And maybe there are more victims out there.  Be careful!  How careful can you be when you go to the dentist?

And what about the adage, if you see something, say something.  We were at Ben Gurion Airport a few days ago. Walking from the rental car parking area we passed an open locker with a suitcase in it.  Hard to imagine an innocent person checking his suitcase and not remembering to close the locker.  Maybe it was not so innocent.  We thought it should be reported so we headed for the first uniformed person we saw and asked if he was security.  Yes.  So we told him about the suitcase.  That wasn’t his job. He sent us to the next person, a few feet further towards Terminal C.  We told him.  He determined it was of no import and sent us into the building to find security there.  We couldn’t locate anyone so we abandoned our mission and nothing happened.  Luckily.  We saw something. We said something. Who cared?  These guys had jobs that did not include responding to seeing and saying.  We were lucky that time.  Be careful?  We were.  Didn’t matter.

And how about that rental car?  We picked it up on shishi, about an hour before Shabbat would descend on our home in Herzliya.  Our flight had been delayed and we were somewhat panicked.  When we saw the light on the dashboard indicating a problem we pointed it out, not wanting to find ourselves stuck on the Ayalon.  The rental people whisked it away and, within five minutes, returned with the light now off.  We wondered how that was possible but we trusted them and dashed home in time for Shabbat.  On Sunday morning the light was back on.  We went to a local office of the same rental agency and they determined, very promptly, that the car had absolutely no measurable oil.  In fact, we could easily have been stuck on the Ayalon.  Be careful?  What could we have done at the airport when they assured us they had fixed the issue?

I recently read about a scam.  A couple had made arrangements with numerous NJ doctors to perform all sorts of serious exams from their portable van. These included echocardiographs.  They promised the doctors who hired them  for fast turn around and lower cost.  They were very successful and living a high flying life with a $1,500,000 house, luxury cars and all the etcs. you can conjure.  They were, in fact, delivering very fast results.  The only problem was that neither one of them was a physician and they, themselves, were interpreting the test results and signing off on them .In their plea before a judge they hoped for light sentences since they have now lost all of their friends.  Poor things! Be careful?  For sure the doctors could have been more careful, but how were the patients to know?

I was in the bakery. What’s more boring and less dangerous than that? I share this because it’s part of being careful. Yes.  The bakery!  And no I didn’t drown in tons of freshly whipped cream; that wouldn’t have been such a terrible way to go. The woman behind the counter was wearing plastic gloves.  Good, so far. She let out a mighty sneeze. Quite productive.  Her gloved hand, reflexively, wiped her nose. Gross, but normal.  She turned to me, her next customer.  Same glove. Naturally I sent her off to wash her hands and replace the glove.  She sneered at me.  Don’t those gloves cover all the sins of mankind?

But, when we eat out, how careful can we be?  There’s this custom in Israeli steakiyas that I have great difficulty with.  It’s the meze.  All the salads and pitot are delivered to  your table with nary a serving utensil in sight.  It’s dip in, eat, re-dip.  You’ve got it.  Everyone is having their own kibbutz galuyot, ingathering of the exiles.  At least all of whatever swims and lives in their mouths.  Share your hepatitis?  I’d rather not, even if you think I’m a germophobe, or worse!  Ask for serving spoons and you are subject to instant ridicule.  How can you be careful?

And lest you think that only modest restaurants are so casual with their microbes.  I’ve been to many a fancy place where they’ll treat you to a shared dessert.  Right on!  Everyone eats from the same plate. We’re all friends after all.  So who’s not being careful here?  The baalei ha bait or the fressers? 

Of course, eating out is an act of faith all its own. What do we know about the kitchen standards?  I grew up in a home where my mother always washed the spoon after tasting.  I do the same.  Of course.  But, I’ve watched cooking shows on TV, and that’s when they know they’re being watched for crying out loud, and they never wash the tasting spoon.

I’ve also been in restaurants where there’s no soap in the bathroom. Hmmm.  If I can’t wash my hands, how about the cook and the waitstaff? Good question.  Be careful?  Give me a break. Maybe I should peruse the bathroom before the menu?

We, each of us, could go on and on.  I know I could.  So I adjure you, beg you, just be as careful as you can.  It won’t matter but what’s the harm in trying?