Someday the coronavirus pandemic will end, and for the most part people will conduct themselves the way they did before they ever heard of COVID-19. I say “for the most part” because social distancing has shown us that at least one of our previous germ-swapping activities is really unnecessary.
I refer, of course, to handshakes. If they have now become a thing of the past, I truly won’t miss them at all.
I’ve never been really comfortable shaking hands, anyway. I’m not repulsed by it or anything like that, but there is no uniform way of getting it done and it’s always awkward and forced. I prefer the quick grip and release, but others maintain their hold on my hand for an inordinate amount of time while also shaking it like a Chihuahua with a chew toy.
The thing is, when you shake a hand, you don’t know where that hand has been. There have been people who have shaken my hand in the past that wouldn’t have shaken my hand at all had they known what my hand had been shaking just 15 minutes earlier.
And yes, I was a chronic hand-washer even before the pandemic, but if you’re out and about and away from a sink, your hands will wander and become unclean.
For example, I tend to itch, and when I itch, I scratch. I think many of us do this unthinkingly. If you and I have ever shaken hands before, there’s at least a 50-50 chance that I was scratching my left armpit only moments earlier.
Yes, there is a clothing barrier between my hand and pit as well as a liberal application of Gillette Clear Gel antiperspirant, but still.
I guarantee at some point on any given day you’ll mindlessly scratch your head, knee and/or stomach, and if you’re like me and you happen to hear exciting or surprising news you’ll slap your butt cheek while yelling, “Whoa, mister!”
Or maybe you’re at the store and pick up a bag of dog food. Once this has been done, your hand will smell like dog food until you wash it again. So if you shake with an old friend who’s entering the store as you’re leaving, as soon as you get out of earshot he’ll sniff his hand and say, “Damn, Scott’s been snacking on dog food again.”
The point I’m trying to make is that your hand is going to get into all kinds of mischief throughout the day, and in most cases it’s best that you don’t touch other folks with it.
During the virus some people have replaced the handshake with elbow-bumping, but that’s ridiculous, too. It’s safer, but then again so is staying away from other humans entirely.
Why can’t we all just segue to non-contact greetings?
I’ve heard some people are using the Vulcan salute, which is cool if you’re a Star Trek fan like me. But what if you encounter someone who prefers Star Wars?
They might insult you in Shyriiwook, you’ll respond with a zinger spoken in Klingon, and the next thing you know the nerd fight has gotten physical.
How about just saying a simple, “Hello,” and they can reply with, “Hello,” “Hi,” “Howdy” or “Greetings.” Or if it’s someone you know well you might say, “How’s it hangin’” and they might say, “It’s hangin’ low,” “It’s swingin’ wildly” or “It’s broke.”
But if you insist on non-verbal greetings you might try just nodding and smiling, nodding and mouthing “Hello,” or waving.
During quarantine I learned to do the floss dance, and I’ve experimented with it as a greeting but it takes a bit too long and tends to be unnerving to the older customers at the supermarket.
Whatever the case, if handshakes are no longer fashionable, I’m absolutely fine with it. As many things as our hands touch throughout the day, we should probably only use them to touch ourselves.
OK, that didn’t come out right …