Why do some guys act as if the sole purpose of shaking hands is to crush all of the other person’s bones from the wrist on down? Do they enjoy listening to the crunching and popping sounds? Do they get a kick out of seeing the other guy struggle to maintain his smile while every nerve in his body is screaming, “Ouch!”?
Some days my hand is so sore I’m convinced a doctor is required to reset my bones and put my wrist and hand in a cast. Other days I just wish I was wearing a cast to protect my right hand from the next vise-gripped gorilla I meet.
Shaking hands dates back to ancient times. (“Ancient times” to my kids means anything before the invention of the Internet, while in my mind, “ancient times” usually means anything before the invention of color television.) However, in the REAL ancient times, hundreds and even thousands of years ago, men would greet each other by clasping right hands. This gesture sent a clear message: “I have no intention of attacking you since my sword-wielding hand is currently busy trying to crush your knuckles.”
(I’m not sure what they did with left-handed guys. It would be easy for them to clasp right hands, smile sincerely, and then stick a knife in your back. Reminds me of a supervisor I had many years ago.)
My fulltime job is Engineering Marketing Manager, a rather fancy title, but what I do mostly is deliver doughnuts and chat about last night’s baseball games. (By the way, if my boss is reading this, that was a JOKE!) In my travels I shake hands all day long. By two o’clock in the afternoon, my right hand is so sore, I often feel like playing only nine holes. Oh, you thought Engineering Marketing Managers worked hard until 7 p.m.? Hee hee, aren’t you silly. (By the way, if my boss is reading this, that was, um, oh never mind. He knows it’s true.)
I occasionally have to meet with the end users of the products we sell, pipe fitters and sheet metal workers. Interestingly, when I shake their hands, they are gentle. Even though their occupation has produced forearms that would make Popeye jealous, it’s as if they instinctively know they can do serious damage to a white collar weenie like me, so they shake hands firmly but carefully. And fellas, I’m going to show my appreciation by bringing extra doughnuts next time.
The guys who most often crush my hand are fellow white collar weenies: engineers, draftsmen, and salesmen. I don’t understand how a gesture that originally meant, “I am not a threat; we are friends,” has now come to mean in many people’s minds, “I am stronger than you, wuss-boy! Don’t you forget it!”
Recently I came down with a bad cold and my wife ordered me not to shake anyone’s hand. She read in a woman’s magazine that cold germs are most often transmitted via hand-shaking. (How could we survive without woman’s magazines? If we didn’t have all that important health information, our life expectancy would plummet from the current age 78 all the way down to, oh, about 77-and-a-half.)
For a full week, every time I met someone holding out his hand, I said, “No, no. I don’t want to give you my cold.” I went the entire time without getting my knuckles crunched. It was delightful. And as a bonus, I didn’t even want to stop playing after nine holes. So now if I can just get a doctor to write me a six-month prescription for a bottle of cold germs, my hand will have a chance to heal fully.