Case in point: Last night I ran into a couple of guys from work outside of Target*. One of them came at me with some sort of physical greeting that I misinterpreted so grossly that it turned into full-body spooning with a pirouette that I could not recreate for you now, even using powerful computer visualization models. The other guy just looked on in horror and silently thanked God that he was holding a parcel large enough to preclude any interaction with me.
In the aftermath of this incident, I feel it prudent to lay down some ground rules delineating exactly what behaviors not to exhibit when greeting me.
Don't extend a low hand, palm up.
What do you want here? Is this an invitation for a low five? Do you expect a handshake? Either way, I guarantee I'm going to do the wrong thing, leaving us both feeling awkward and stupid.
And if it is a handshake you want, are you going to throw some kind of jive grab-tug-pistol-fingers thing at me? Are you going to pull me in for a one-armed, back-slapping man hug? I have no idea what's going on, and I panic. I might even pee on you.
Don't extend a high hand, elbow up.
Aaagh! What's going on? Is this an exuberant "airplane coming in for a landing" handshake that I'm supposed to meet halfway? Am I supposed to put out a hand to catch a rapidly descending low five? If I am, I guarantee that I will not find the proper alignment and we will create a sloppy, noiseless finger grope that leaves us both feeling dirty and inadequate.
Or are you going to try to hug me? I have no idea what's going on, so I'm going to tense up once you're on me, thus beginning our chance encounter with you feeling guilty, like some kind of hug rapist.
Don't put both arms out, coming in for a hug.
This one I can usually decipher, but I'm still not into it. You might notice that the way I'm "hugging" you back is a tepid, open-palmed pat to the back, like a manatee trying to paddle its way out of the grasp of a predator.
Don't lean in with your shoulder down.
What the hell is this thing? Are we playing football? Am I supposed to tackle you? Is this some kind of chest bumping thing or the foreplay to a manly hug? If you come at me like this, I'm just going to stand there motionless and wait for whatever happens to be over.
Don't come in for the European double-cheek kiss.
Thankfully nobody has ever actually tried this one on me. I guess this is the silver lining to my scabby, pus-filled completion.
I guess what I'm trying to say is, if you absolutely must make physical contact with me upon our casual meeting, the only acceptable means to do so is...
Give me a fist bump.
Outside of a utopian future world where nobody touches one another at all (as depicted in the movie Demolition Man) a fist bump is the best possible physical greeting for many reasons.
- Its intent is clear. When somebody holds out a fist, they are either going to bump you or punch you out. There is usually no ambiguity as to which is going on.
- It requires very little accuracy. Unlike the high five, which reports a failed completion with a weak, flaccid slap, the fist bump keeps it on the down low. Even if you're some kind of spaz who can only connect the knuckle of your pinky finger with your partner's, a fist bump will still let you quietly save face.
- It is less of a disease vector. Yeah, that's right. If you do manage to actually get a firm handshake or hug in on me, all I'm thinking is, "Germs germs germs germs." If you happen to be moist or smelly at the time, I will actively avoid you in the future. With a fist bump we can sidestep all of this unpleasantry and not have to worry if the other is contagious.
As of now, I consider my opinions on this matter to be entered into the public record. If you meet up with me and you still feel you must somehow touch me to mark the occasion, a fist bump is the only gesture I will accept.
Thank you for your attention this matter, and I look forward to not awkwardly grasping your fingers and torso in the future.
* Yes, the aforementioned "guy from work" was TV's David Henrie, while TV's Gregg Sulkin looked on in horror. The only thing worse than an awkward public physical encounter is one involving Tiger Beat celebrities.