Shaking all over
One of my favourite TechCrunch posts of the Michael Arrington era was titled Hand Shaking Is So Medieval. Let’s End It
. In this 2009 piece, he talked about the unhygienic nature a staple business convention.
“Whenever I do shake a hand I’m completely aware of it, can’t stop thinking about it, until I can wash my hands. Sometimes in a meeting I’ll shake hands all around, then excuse myself to the bathroom to wash my hands, then return.”
My problem with handshakes is less the lack of hygiene (everyone’s going to pick up germs from somewhere) and more the socially awkward moments the convention can cause.
Is this person going to just shake my hand? Or are they going in for a fancy, twisty armlocked handshake? Or a fistbump? Or are they going in for a hug? Or a kiss? And will it be one cheek or two? Or both cheeks and back to the first? Or will we accidentally actually kiss each other’s cheeks? Because that’s not supposed to happen. Or is it?
And then there’s the embarrassment I felt that time I tried to shake the hand of a man with a prosthetic arm (he was clearly used to it and handled it well, but the moment has stuck with me for years as an awkward faux pas).
If you think about it, the whole ritual is bizarre. And it persists even as the rest of the world of business changes around it and many other conventions are upended. Young adults don’t like to speak on the phone or answer an unexpected knock at the door, and yet they’ll happily shake hands in a meeting.
After a nuclear apocalypse, it may be that only cockroaches will survive – but you can bet they’ll be shaking hands.