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The three words I see most in America are ”Made in China.” The three words I hear are ”Ew. How gross.”

In the same week that Michael Douglas overshared with us about why he has cancer, we read that a Taco Bell employee was fired for licking a ziggurat of taco shells.

The general response to the former was mild, but the latter caused outrage among the chefs.

How disgusting. I wouldn’t want to eat anything someone had licked.

But, said I, the devil’s advocate, what about when you kiss someone?

Oooooh that’s different.

Gross is a blanket term that covers everything except things that I find gross. My grossometer is clearly out of whack.

Gross can even refer to a colour. As in ”How gross are those orange sweat pants.”

I can’t get a handle on what Americans find disgusting and repulsive. Or what they find abusive.

As far as I can tell they are horrified by dogs anywhere near the restaurant. Yet they are OK with changing a baby’s diaper on the banquet in full view of other diners. They are perfectly OK with belching and Chaucerian farts.

There is a frenetic germophobia in the restaurant where I work.

The servers have elaborate methods of marking their water glasses. Perish the thought you could accidentally swig from someone else’s glass. EW. They are constantly wiping their hands with sanitizer.

They are horrified at the thought of picking a napkin off the carpeted floor….horrified by putting a basket of rolled up silverware on the floor….it’s in the basket not on the floor for heaven’s sake. Yet they will prod every bread roll in the oven before putting it in a basket to be served.

In America even the wafers at Roman Catholic churches come in sterilized, sanitized little sachets. They want to meet their Maker. But not yet.

As for going to the supermarket – the trolleys are equipped with hand sanitizers and the proadeuce (sic) has to be approached with tongs and plastic gloves and little sheets of paper. I can remember buying fresh bread in South Africa when the warm loaf wore a little paper cummerbund and nothing else.

I stopped going to a local hairdresser a few years ago because they wouldn’t allow me to bring a three-pound Pomeranian who sat in her travelling bag.

There is a clear dividing line between disgusting and unattractive.

Once I saw a large woman doing her business in Victoria Road Clifton. I found that disgusting.

I find people peeing in public disgusting. I find people who hold their knives as though they are expecting to be attacked by a street gang deeply unattractive. As for people who attempt to eat artichokes with a knife and fork – they are just plain silly. Slum prudery, Henry Higgins would have called it.

Then there’s Abuse. Abuse is another can of haricots entirely.

You are not allowed to call someone Chinese. That’s abuse. They have to be referred to as Asian. (Not oriental. That’s a rug.)

You are not allowed to say someone is fat. They are heavy. Calling them fat is abuse.

Which brings me to my little adventurette this week.

Those who have the slightest acquaintance with me will know that I prefer – no FAR prefer- most animals to humans. During my career as a hackette, I have championed the cause of the Lipizzaners (when it seemed that the dressage school would have to shut down because of lack of funds), I have worked – actually people are always said to ”work tirelessly” aren’t they- for Domestic Animal Rescue Group. Together with Ahmed Aloudien we spotlighted the horrors committed on horses during gang initiation in the Cape. The Cape Horse Protection Society garnered considerable support by my bullying listeners on Cape Talk and pointing out the connection between cruelty to animals and murder.

Since coming to States I have written extensively about the decimation of wildlife in Africa.

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated,’ Gandhi once said.

When a man wantonly destroys a work of art, we call him a vandal. What then, do we call a man who cuts the legs off a horse – or gouges the eyes out of a cow.

What do we call soi-disant ”war veterans” in Zimbabwe who are shooting, snaring , spearing and using landmines to destroy herds of elephant and the endangered Black rhino, cheetah, leopard, antelope and giraffe?

Once, when I had a guest slot on a New York Radio Show with Barry Farber, I called Johnny Rodriguez of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force to talk about the mutilation of rhinos.

After the show Bah Fah (as I call him) shook his head sadly.

“They don’t even know where Zimbabwe is. Nor do they care….”

More recently I was introduced to Bill Smith of Main Line Animal Rescue.

MLAR have a huge celebrity support base whose main purpose is to draw attention to the horrific puppy mills (or Poppy Meals as Cesar Milan pronounces it.) The conditions in which animals are kept in dark barns in wire cages no bigger than shoeboxes and forced to breed leaves this hackette at a loss for words, so gut-wrenching it is.

The worst offenders are the Amish in Lancaster County who make millions of dollars a year by selling puppies to pet shops. It is my fervent hope that there will be a special place in hell for these who regard animals merely as cash crops.

I give you this potted history of my involvement and love of animals merely as the backstory.

I have rotten luck with men, but I have been blessed with three Pomeranians. Two are retired American champions. To say that I dote on them is an understatement. They eat only organic chicky wicky, organic broccoli-woccoli and drink Poland Spring distilled water. (Heaven’s I would never give them tap water!)

While I wear schmattas from the Gap, in the winter they have real shearling coats. They have miniature Ugg boots and Italian harnesses.

I spend $80 per Pom for their grooming. (My blow out costs a mere $35….)

They have a sheepskin staircase so that they can ascend and descend from my bed as and when.

I fear I am over-egging the omelette….but I need you to get the Polaroid.

Sunday morning, before work, I raced to the local market to buy some of the aforementioned organic, cage free, no steroids or hormone-fed chicken breasts for the pups.

As is my habit I took all three with me. Breeze sits in a carrier on the front seat, China is on the back seat on a sheepskin pillow and bossy Molly is on my lap.

I parked the car in the shade and left it running with the aircon on high. It was so cold, the Poms teeth were practically chattering. I was gone for all of 10 minutes.

When I returned there was a fat – oops – heavy woman in plaid Bermuda shorts standing a short distance away from my little car. Actually from the back her bottom looked like a covered wagon.

“Its abuse!” she was nasally whining into her iPhone. “Its gross abuse! There’s no other word! The woman has turned up now so I don’t know what she’ll do…but its GROSS and its ABUSE.” Her eyes were flat and malevolent. I felt as though I was being watched by something I had just put in in the garbage.

It took me a few moments to understand that she was calling the police because I was, in her view, abusing my pets by leaving them in the air-conditioned car.

You can’t make this stuff up.

“If you’re concerned about animal abuse, perhaps you should investigate the puppy mill industry ma’am,” I suggested politely.

Privately I thought that given that she had a girth the size of a redwood tree, she was abusing not only the McDonalds, but the Pizza Hut and both Ben and Jerrys. But what do I know?

I drove off and left her still yakking away to the police.

As someone famously said ”You cannot underestimate the intelligence of some people.”