So, it’s been a week since I formally renounced shaking hands.
Here are some observations during what has been a awkwardly counter-cultural week.
It’s easier to refuse a hand when in a group of people, because others can validate that I’ve also refused their hands. In those cases, it’s clearly not about them; it’s just a weirdness about me. But if I’m alone with someone, it’s much more awkward to refuse the offered hand.
Expression of Prejudice?
When refusing someone’s hand, the person might suspect that I am expressing some sort of prejudice. Especially in private.
As a result, the only hands I did shake this week were of the parking valet, a sick fellow, and a fellow of a different race.
Element of Surprise
Some folks are surprised. Others offer a seen-that-before laugh and then offer me their elbow.
And I did shake a hand when a fellow surprised me with a warm greeting.
Unfortunately, any introduction immediately becomes a discussion about the flu. I’d rather not talk about the flu or the non-shaking of hands, but — after I go through my physical and verbal gyrations — every conversation starts with a discussion of germs and my weirdness.
The Change of Etiquette
Today, it is rude to refuse an offered hand.
Tomorrow, I believe, if this disease stuff runs a horrible course through our lives, it might be the opposite: polite etiquette might be a bow; touching might be rude. (In some polite cultures, this is already so.)
Many Of You Don’t Like This
Comments on the earlier post suggest that my illness is: a media induced case of mysophobia. (You might be right.)
Others bemoan the further disengagement — now becoming non-physical — in society. An MBA asks, “What will we become if we don’t share a hug?” (You, too, might be right.)
Don’t Blame Me
When you get home and find that you are sick, I’m someone you will explicitly remember among those people who did not make you sick. (Of course, who knows? Perhaps I made you sick through airborne bad boys.)
All of which reminds me of a horrible story.
Andy Sokol, of blessed memory, the namesake and muse for Net Cotton Content, once told me this story:
We were shipping out for World War I. Basic training had ended and the ship to Europe awaited us in the morning.
It was night and four of us had climbed into our bunks. In the dark, we smoked cigarettes and chatted about our lives.
In the morning, I woke up to find the other three men were dead. Influenza. That’s what won the war.
My favorite nurse practitioner adds that the 3,000mg of aspirin prescribed daily for flu symptoms in those times might have also contributed mightily to the sudden, untimely deaths of those three men.
How to do it.
I still don’t know what to say or do to avoid the Shake — and not destroy the beginning of a conversation.