Posted on

Sorry, dude, can’t shake your hand anymore

Sorry, dude, can’t shake your hand anymore Sorry, dude, can’t shake your hand anymore

I think it was sometime during the Pleistocene Epoch -- or maybe it was the Holocene, I get those two mixed up all the time -- when two primitive men made a spontaneous deal. One of them held a burning stick that had been ignited by lightning, while the other had this odd round thing upon which he was moving a rock.

'Huh,' one of the men said. 'Wanna trade? Me give you wheel, you give me fire?'

Upon mutual agreement of the swap, one of the men reached out his hand in an awkward gesture to somehow consummate the transaction, and the other one, not sure how to react, gingerly reached out and grasped the first man's mitt. As they both shook their hands in an effort to unlock their unexpected grasp, they somehow found a masculine satisfaction in the touch.

'Argh,' one of the men said. 'Good grip. You should run for Cave Man Senate.'

Of course, I can't fully corroborate those events as happening exactly that way, but since I fabricate almost everything here anyway, let's assume that was the birth of the handshake. For tens of thousands of years since, men have been pressing paws to signify everything from 'Hey, how ya doin'' to 'Thanks for the help' to 'I'm squeezin' harder than you, so therefore, I'm somehow better than you in my small mind.' Oh, yeah, you all know that guy. You just hope he ain't datin' your sister.

Well, that's all changed now, thanks to this nasty little virus that has forced us to make face masks out of old underwear (I knew I was savin' them for a reason) and stand a fathom apart when we're in line for 'essential' items such as Powerball tickets. Just one casualty of this whole coronavirus craziness is the handshake, 'cuz we can't trust that the dude with whom we would normally shake hasn't recently sneezed fresh phlegm into his palm that you would then transfer to yourself when you picked your nose right afterward. I mean, hey, no, communicable disease transmission ain't always a pretty picture.

'This may turn out to be the death of the handshake,' recently said one Hilary Babcock, who's no less (and perhaps no more) than an infectious disease specialist at Washington University School of Medicine. And, as we all learned in 2016, if you can't trust somebody named Hilary ... well, maybe that's not such a good analogy. Let's just assume that an infectious disease specialist is reputable, and take it from there.

I'm a hand-shaker by habit, often reaching out to greet acquaintances and even strangers with a firm palm clasp as a conveyance of friendship, mutual respect, or sometimes just to see if he's one of those guys whose hand temperature is lower than a corpse's. Again, you've all done it, you extrovertly extend a physical greeting, only to pull back quickly when you realize his skin either just came out of a convenience store ice cream freezer or hasn't felt any blood circulation in a year.

Yikes, you know vampires ain't real, but this guy, well, you wonder.

Anyway, in the name of good health, we're not to shake hands anymore. The elbow bump has become the COVID-era's symbolic gesture, one meant to somehow convey a mutually-agreeable greeting while keeping the greeters at that required minimal distance apart, lest they spew infectious germs upon one another. Rigorous hand-washing is another habit we've been advised to practice, but again, if you can't know that the other guy's mitts haven't seen a bar of soap for six weeks, we ought not take that risk.

I haven't heard it mentioned specifically, but I'm assuming the 'high five' is out, too. Once reserved for athletes and others celebrating a particularly joyous accomplishment, the high five has become more common now and is used in such instances as classmates at graduations, lucky friends at casino slot machines, and priests and parents at first holy baptisms. Well, no, I haven't personally witnessed that last one, but I mean, why not? Better than a chest bump, given the circumstances, I'd think.

If the hand shake is dead, though so, too, should the fist bump be, as it not only presents as great a risk for disease spread, but it puts it up there at a height where ceiling fans can spread the viral particles, too. Likewise, the fist bump is no longer recommended for the 'Hey, bro' greeting, 'cuz it's well known that knuckles carry germs as readily as fingers. Well, I don't know, Google it. I'm sure it's there in the medical literature somewhere. Other forms of physical salutation that should be outlawed now include the Russian Orthodox cheek kiss, in which two folks alternate pecks on either side of each others' faces, as in 'Hail, comrade, your breath smells like borscht.' Likewise, courting couples should no longer walk arm-in-arm through peaceful parks (which, given the threat of elbow rashes, I never was a big fan of anyway). The aforementioned robust chest bump is also an obvious no-no now, as they are known to thrust spit, eyeball fluid, upper lip sweat droplets and nasal debris through the air at high velocities. Yeah, I know, you wanna chest-bump your Mom when you visit her in the nursing home, but a wave through a double-pane window may have to suffice for a time. Just keep in mind, she's too old now to risk a coronavirus infection (or a broken rib).

Other formerly acceptable hand contact measure to avoid going forward include thumb wars, patty-cake, rock-paper-scissors (unless you maintain proper social distancing) and your occasional bloody knuckle/ ripped lip/loose tooth fistfight (again, especially with your mother in the nursing home).

I know, I don't like it either, but during these extraordinary pandemic periods, we all must do our part to slow the spread of the virus through the population. I'll miss the handshake, sure, but will do what I must to protect my fellow man.

Just know, I have my limits. Don't ask me to give up the pinky-swear.