First of all, I prefer the term “germ-conscious,” as “germophobe” has such negative connotations. A person who is germ-conscious may simply be trying to protect his own health. With the myriad drug-resistant bacteria in our environment, germ-conscious people are, in my opinion, levelheaded.
Choosing to use a straw in a restaurant is sensible, as it keeps you from ingesting any microbial contamination from the rim of the glass -- the most likely place to retain bacteria from another person’s mouth if the glass wasn’t washed thoroughly. While the health risks associated with such exposure are relatively low, if the person who used the glass before you happened to have an infectious disease, it is possible for it to be transmitted. Moreover, even if the glass was properly cleaned, the bare hand(s) of the bartender, busboy, waitress, etc., will have touched it at some time after it came out of the dishwasher. You can’t be certain that none of these people held it by the rim.
Using an individually wrapped straw is an easy way to avoid the small risk that could be associated with drinking from the rim of a dirty glass. Even if there are no individually wrapped straws available, using an unwrapped straw is probably safer than drinking directly from the glass. -- As told to Elizabeth Narins