Tuesday, December 7, 2010


     I have a thing about shaking hands. Another pea-brain thing but nevertheless....
     I still recall the first time I shook someone's hand: Grade 2.
     I had just won a poster contest, sort of a big deal I guess because there was an assembly and a man in a suit presented me with a book and about $25, give or take $25 (that part is not so clear). I could not recall the drawing. I drew so frequently it could have been anything. Nor did I recall entering a contest. Yup peeps. More evidence that I have a history of being clueless.
     Anyway, the suit reached out to shake my hand. I had no idea what he was doing. None. Total discombobulation. It's that innocent kid stage, eh? Reminds me of my cousin Rory who, on the first day of school, knew enough to go stand at the urinals to pee but was still clueless enough to pull his pants down to his ankles before he did.
     Anyway...the suit nodded at me. I looked at the principal and his perplexed face combined with his furious pantomiming indicated I needed to lift the paralyzed stump that was once my arm and somehow interact with the stranger's extended hand. So I reached out with my left hand for his already extended right hand. And for a moment, we stood there, holding hands. FAIL! Despite my blunder, everyone clapped. And the applause felt great. Still though, I wondered, what the heck is going on? (Apparently my drawing skills were significantly more advanced than my social skills. Hmm. Has anything really changed?)
     This was not a negative experience. As an adult, I don't fear shaking people's hands. I did not become Howie Mandel. However, it might explain why I am sensitive to the whole shaking hands experience. To me, it's important. I want to show respect. But the margin for error makes me even more neurotic, if that's possible.
     Example. Think of the last time you shook someone's hand. Whether comfortable or awkward, how would you describe it?
  1. The Dead Fish Shake
  2. The Crusher
  3. The Two-handed Shake
  4. The Finger Shake
  5. The Sweaty Slide-out
  6. The Linger-too-long Shake
  7. The Too Feminine or Too Masculine Shake
  8. The No-eye-contact Shake
  9. The Wipe-on-the-pants-before-I-shake Shake
  10. The Dreaded There-is-something-about-this-person-that-makes-me-not-want-to-make-physical-contact-but-I'm-going-to-anyway-and-even-shake-hands-more-assuredly-now-to-overcompensate-for-that-thought Shake  
     Just this morning I had to shake a stranger's hand.  Here's the breakdown, in slo mo. I came around the corner and encountered a stranger at work. I smiled and said, "Good morning." A third party entered. Introductions ensued. No, no, no, I shouldn't shake this person's hand, not right now. Did she see me hesitate? Oh yeah, here comes the hand. What can I do? How can I refuse? I extended my hand. Further, further. Our hands met. It's a good shake, a firm shake, we make eye contact....
     Unfortunately this occured mere seconds after I came out of the bathroom at work. My hand? Still wet. Seriously wet. Just soap and water peeps. Honest. For some reason, I was on air dry. But she didn't know that!
     Now that is a lasting first impression. FAIL!


Glen said...

yep - nothing worse than a wet handshake!

paulsifer42 said...

I was honestly thinking about doing a post about weir hand shakes... I probably still will because I'm cheap like that. I spent two years in MN as one of those guys in suits and a name tag teaching people about Jesus and Joseph Smith. I've shaken a lot of hands (many of which were a little sketch).

paulsifer42 said...

Now comes the awkward blogging moment: do I just leave the "weir," or do I make another comment to show that, while I'm not smart enough to spell check before clicking post, I am smart enough to read it again and realize something is wrong...

Artist and Geek said...

dbs-here's what happens to a well-rested mind. I took a nap and didn't set my alarm...(non-public swearing)
1. paulsifer42 :) I have those awkward blogging moments too, any advice?
2. dbs-it's flu season, the last proffered hand shake was one I politely declined. Trust me dude, he looked like a pharmaceutical zombie!
3. Just noticed how many time zones comment on your blog. Cool.
4. Your twitter account is sending out a distress signal at regular intervals.
5. My computer has been cycling through blogs on its own.
6. OMG! It's skynet!
7. I have completed all my work for tomorrow and am starting on the day after. At this rate I'll finish 2011 by X-mas.
8. Posted comment on your last post.
9. Exceptionally ALERT.

Artist and Geek said...

10. Crap! This is not my blog.

Alittlesprite said...

Now you have to decide whether to explain your wet hand or not. Then you panic because you know that the person now knows you just went to the toilet. And now you are thinking about them thinking about you in the toilet....
hmm.. AWKWARD!

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Handshakes #1 and #4 are THE worst! I immediately hate anyone who shakes hands like that.

vickilikesfrogs said...

Maybe I'm strange (shut up) but I personally think shaking hands is disgusting. Like dogs sniffing each others' asses! *sighs* But, being an American human in the year 2010, I still have to do it. And I'm pretty sure the person figured out it was soap and water. I mean, really...how many people come out of the restroom with urine dripping off their hands??

Nicole said...

Oh yeah. She totally thinks you Mr. Pee Hands now.

I always do #9, by the way. I can't think of a single moment during my day when I don't have ick on my hands. I'm always washing and drying, but then there's always more ick. So, when my doorbell rings (the most likely scenario that will result in a handshake), I'm invariably wiping my hands on my jeans.

Kev D. said...

Awesome post.

I think the worst is when I shake someone's hand and upon release, my arm swings down and I tag myself in the nuts.

Painful, embarassing, and just a bad time for all those involved.

paulsifer42 said...

@ Artist and Geek
I really don't have much advice. If I had some I'd give it to me. I guess read what you write BEFORE hitting post... nah, that'd take too much effort.

wendy said...

I think it would be better if we were like the Orientals who just bow instead.
I hate a weak handshake, a slimy handshake...
I like a firm grip
a look in the eye
Like they know what they are doing.

now I will have to totally rethink the whole handshaking thing.

dbs said...

@Glen Yup. Pretty gnarly.
@paulsifer42 I can relate to awkward spelling moments. See above comment. Hopefully I spelled and used that word correctly.
@A&G My blog is your blog. Anytime.
@Alittlesprite I never thought of that. Good point.
@DSWS I understand. Isn't it odd how visceral that 1st impression can be?
@vickilikesfrogs Good points about urine, and asses. Yet, still, a wet hand is disconcerting even after you determine that the cause is likely benign.
@nicole I think most people probably appreciate #9.
@Kev D. Hilariously awkward, not to mention painful. And I can honestly say I've never encountered the words "nuts" and "handshake" in the same sentence before.
@Wendy I like your idea. And I'm sorry. Now I've made you a self-conscious hand-shaker too.

Artist and Geek said...

KevD. still chuckling-can't shake the image of bad hand-nut coordination
dbs-Awwwwww. Thanks, man.

dbs said...

A&G Yeah. I'm still chuckling too.

paulsifer42 said...

@ Wendy
I seriously had a girlfriend who freaked out when I said something about Oriental food, and about how they like to be called "Asians." Yeah, that relationship didn't last long.

Kev D. said...

A&G and dbs thanks! For teh record, it's from a stand-up bit I used to do, and wrote down here:


And yes, it has happened before... once it was at the tail-end of a high five, for ADDED velocity.

Michael said...

The problem we have with the competitive sport of handshaking is that we don't talk about it. Thank you for breaking the ice.

Two nuggets of advice gleaned from a bushel of personal sweaty finger, pansy-ass shakes. First, even though it is a competition with a winner and loser, you can short-circuit the whole thing and ask for a re-do. Confuses the hell out of your opponent and you end up with the last shake. Second, practice. I have a job where I meet new people every day so I shake every chance I get. I'm pretty good at it now. If this isn't the case for you, practice with friends and family.

dbs said...

@KevD Ouch.
@Michael Good ideas. Thanks.

Matty said...

I don't mind shaking hands at all. What I don't like are those pansy, limpy shakes that some men use. WHAT is UP with THAT?

And the second kind I don't like is when the person who is shaking your hand with other people around, is looking for the next person while shaking MY HAND. I find that very impersonal and IMPOLITE. My respect level for someone who does that drops right to the ground. For heaven's sake, LOOK me in the eyes when you're shaking my hand!!

dbs said...

@Matty Eye contact is key, I agree.

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