It seems as though scientists are always trying to get us to change our time-honored habits. Now they want us to reject handshake greetings in favor of “fist bumps,” because a study has shown that a firm handshake transmits far more germs than a quick knuckle clash.
In the study, a scientist stuck his gloved hand into a vat of bacteria, let it dry, and then shook hands, fist-bumped, or high-fived other participants and measured how many germs ended up on their gloves. (Apparently the scientists didn’t think the “bro shake” or the “down low” were sufficiently common to warrant testing.) The results showed handshakes transmitted 10 times more bacteria than fist bumps and two times more germs than a palm-smacking high five.
Am I the only person who is relieved at the fact that scientists who developed this particular study didn’t decide to also examine the germ transmission of hugs and kisses, and thereby avoided sticking their faces, lips and entire bodies into vats of bacteria?
No one will be surprised that physical contact with humans involves potential germ transmission. Of course, contact with just about anything outside of a sealed white-room environment involves potential germ transmission. Do these scientists ever use a public restroom or take a crowded subway train and have to hang onto a pole? Unless you want to be a recluse, germ transmission is just something we accept in modern life.
And, in the professional world — at least for a 50-something guy like me — there really aren’t any viable alternatives to a handshake. I’m not going to be high-fiving opposing counsel when they arrive for a deposition, and in many situations advancing toward someone with your hand clenched into a fist could be misconstrued and provoke more immediate and painful health consequences than a little germ transmission.
If we’re really that concerned about public germ transmission, why not start a campaign to avoid hand contact altogether and encourage everyone to use the Fonzie thumbs-up sign, the double finger-point, or something equally ludicrous? I’ll just accept the germ-infested reality of the modern world and stick to handshakes, thank you very much.