From The Pre-Hugging Period

Tomorrow night I’m having dinner with my college roommate, who’s coming to town for work.  We’ve known each other since, like, 1976, and it will be good to see him and catch up on things.

hapa-handshake-300x300-1But as I was walking home last night, I was thinking:  how do I greet him when we first see each other?

You see, our friendship dates back to the pre-hugging period.  In those days, men simply didn’t give a friendly hug as a hello.  I don’t think I ever saw my grandfathers or my father hug anyone, male or female, and I don’t remember any my high school or college friends going the hugging route, either.  It was also before the dawn of the “bro bump,” the combination move that occurs where the two men greeting each other shake hands and collide shoulder to shoulder at the same time, or the half hug, where the greeters stand shoulder to shoulder and put an arm around each other’s shoulder, without going for the full hug.

In those days, there were three potential forms of male greeting — manly nod, manly handshake, and manly handshake coupled with manly backslap, in roughly that order of ascending friendliness.  The only deviation from the norm in the stilted ’70s came if you encountered a fellow college student and gave the revolutionary hippie handshake, pictured with this post, where your thumb was somehow pointing upward.  The revolutionary/hip handshake fell out of fashion as quickly as ’70s hairstyles and leisure suits, however, and even if I wanted to give it in greeting I couldn’t because I don’t remember how to do it.

Acceptable forms of greeting are pretty confusing these days because there are so many options, and you don’t want to chose the wrong one and be left hanging.  I guess I’ll go with the regular, firm handshake that was my grandfathers’ and father’s preferred form of greeting.  It may be boring and old-fashioned, but it’s at least stood the test of time.

A Germophobe’s Analysis Of The Relative Health Advantages Of Fist Bumps Over Handshakes

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.