Please don’t shake my hand.
It isn’t that I don’t believe in social pleasantries. It isn’t that I’m not happy to make your acquaintance. I simply don’t want your germs.
I am not a clean freak, nor do I use antibacterial soaps or cleansers in my house, but I don’t want to expose myself to germs unnecessarily. I would prefer to steer clear of avian or swine flu (any flu really . . . regardless of whether it carries a barnyard title or not).
How many times have you warmly greeted someone with a handshake and only then do the mention how they are getting over a terrible cold, or they suddenly launch into a violent coughing fit?
Really, I’m not germ phobic, but I am actively trying to limit my exposure to avoidable germs in the wake of one-too-many viral headlines.
There are additional reasons to end the handshake. What about the serious peanut allergy sufferers? Wouldn’t they sigh with relief if they knew they didn’t have to chance a handshake with one of your potentially peanut-buttery fingers?
How about those times your hands are pretty full and you are introduced to someone? I’ve bobbled the contents of boxes in a stooge-like manner, all to make that social grace of a handshake happen.
For the more obvious reasons against the handshake, some people do not wash their hands after a trip to the lavatory, others cough into their hands, and some are touching communal objects like elevator buttons and door hardware without ever using alcohol hand washes.
Finally, I’m also not a fan of the bone-crusher or wet noodle handshakes, so disposing of the unsanitary practice could also save the pain or ill feelings of such encounters.
I realize that many long-standing customs and traditions are repeated “because that is the way it has always been done,” but they don’t have to continue. The handshake is said to have started as an elbow shake that then slid down the forearm to check for concealed weapons. Now it simply passes concealed germs.
Perhaps handshaking has outlived its usefulness. While we are teaching our children to cough into the bend of their arm instead of their hand, it only makes sense that we reevaluate the handshake ourselves.
Think of the sick days it could save you as an individual, and the millions in lost productivity for the nation.
I believe that not handshaking could catch on as quickly as the germs it used to spread. Clearly though, we need an alternative. Since the handshake is not a worldwide phenomenon we have plenty of gestures from which to choose.
If people want to make the social pleasantry a no-contact sport, we could simply adopt the Japanese bow or the Vulcan “V” salute. The bow also doubles as near exercise for those of us who are too sedentary, as a deep bow could almost turn into a toe touch.
Since the Vulcan “V” takes a bit of practice, and only means something to a chosen few, how about throwing the peace sign to those we meet. What a great message for every new acquaintance!
A head nod is also a possibility, as is a “heartfelt” gesture, where we could simply touch our hearts when we meet someone. A tougher version of this last one could be called “the gorilla” as we hit our chest once or twice with a closed fist.
If you aren’t a full-blown bubble-boy, minimal contact alternatives to the handshake include the fist pump. This is the closed fist knuckle-to-knuckle tap that you may have seen various sports players and celebrities, from Barack Obama to Howie Mandel, using. To some it may seem “gangsta”- like, but it will stop the flow of many a germ from reaching your immune system.
Alternatively, we could place a hand on the side of the other’s shoulder. This brings you a little closer in proximity to someone than the traditional handshake, so beware of sneezes or coughs, but shoulders are relatively germ-free.
Of course hugs or kisses shouldn’t be ruled out either. Even the French greeting of a kiss on each cheek is still less transmitting than our handshake.
The first little while may prove a bit awkward socially, as we try out new social conventions, but we’ll adapt in time. The fist pump/knuckle tap may be the best transition method, as we can offer an extended closed fist at chest level before our new friends outstretch their hand in friendship.
How about it? Let’s reduce sick days, doctor visits, and health-care costs.
No pharmaceutical company will endorse this move, as it can’t make them billions. As you consider getting your flu shot this year, consider three free, easy techniques to keep you healthier: wash your hands, don’t touch your face, and stop the handshake.