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The Dirtiest Handshake Ever

August 28, 2014

Yesterday afternoon I’m sitting in my little office, minding my own business, doing my work. The day is moving, I’m listening to Count Basie and things are good. I’m just ready to eat lunch when Joe* comes to talk to me. Joe is a service technician who’s been working out in the shop for the last 90 minutes replacing a motor on a piece of equipment and greasing and oiling rollers and gears and all sorts of the general stuff that service technicians who work on Joe’s type of equipment do every day. I can’t be more specific than that because I’m not a technical guy and I wouldn’t really know what to call that stuff other than “that thing there”, “that part” or “stuff”.

So Joe walks into my office. I’m eating a peanut butter sandwich and I slip it back into the plastic bag thing (see, I don’t even know what to call the plastic storage bag thing other than “thing”) and I stand up and turn to talk to him. He’s explaining everything he’s been doing for the last hour and a half and not only couldn’t I care less, I’m not even listening. Pretty much everything he said after, “Well, Mike, I’m all done.” was lost because I’m focused on his hands. Both hands – palms, fingers, knuckles and fingernails – are filthy. Greasy, oily and heaven-knows-what-else-might-be-on-them filthy. He’s talking about a motor and gears and some fuses and all I’m thinking about is how in the world he’ll ever get his hands clean. Joe runs the back of a hand under his nose and wipes some snot away and keeps on talking. Joe scratches the top of his ear with a dirty index finger and keeps on talking. Joe rubs his left eye with the knuckles of a hand and keeps on talking. Joe crosses his arms in front of his chest and buries both hands under his armpits which, by my guess, have to be at least half as filthy as his hands, and keeps on talking.

Joe talks and talks and talks.

And as I’m thinking about how much filth is on his hands and wondering about what might be setting up a colony under his fingernails and in his nostrils and his ears the light bulb goes off. Joe is too friendly and too talkative and too demonstrative to end this conversation with a polite “See ‘ya later, guy”; Joe is going to want to shake my hand.

Panic. Not even the thought of eventually returning to my peanut butter sandwich is reassuring. The only thing I can do prepare. Confucius said that ‘without preparation there is sure to be failure.’ so I go into preparation mode. My first instinct is to simply walk away but I’m surrounded by three walls and he’s standing smack dab and dirty handed right in the doorway. So while Joe continues to talk about mechanical stuff I have no interest in, I take a calming inner breath and act. I step back. I sit down. I put my hands in my pockets and I turn my chair a few degrees away. For good measure I extend my legs and cross my feet at the ankles.

Joe doesn’t pick up on any of my defensive preparations and that’s good. I’m feeling better about getting out of the situation with not only my own hygiene intact, but my life, and the peanut butter sandwich is starting to look good again.

“All right, so I think you’re all set to go, then.” Joe said as he stepped forward and, in what seemed like slow motion, stuck his filthy, crusty, snot-dripping, ear-wax coated hand in my face.

If I was a good liar I would have made up some story about not being able to shake hands because of religious reasons or something, but I’m not and I didn’t. Like a fool I pulled my poor right hand out of my pocket and shook his hand.

A day later and I’m still here so Joe and his bubo-looking hand didn’t kill me.

As coincidence would have it, this morning a friend shared a beautifully titled article from The Atlantic with me about hand-shaking. “Handshakes Are Disgusting” the title screams and I couldn’t agree more and to help abolish the handshake and spread the word on the handshake’s relatively safe alternative, I’ll share the article and the video with you. Please watch it and please help spread the word. The life you save could be… you know the rest.

Oh, and if we ever meet face-to-face, please don’t offer to shake my hand. Seriously, you won’t hurt my feelings and I promise I’ll like you just as much as I would like you if we had shaken hands. Probably more.

*Not his real name. While I should expose a booger-wiping, eyeball scratching, non-handwasher for the germ-spreading philistine he is, I don’t have it in me. Plus he’s a big guy and if I should ever meet him on the street I don’t want him to be offended. 



5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 28, 2014 3:05 pm

    You should have just gone for the big manly hug. Heh, heh, heh.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. August 28, 2014 3:10 pm

    Snap on a pair of rubber gloves & you’d be fine… and now I have to go wash my own

    Liked by 1 person

  3. August 28, 2014 3:30 pm

    ew…….gives me the shivers

    Liked by 1 person

  4. maadmaax permalink
    August 30, 2014 8:45 am

    Love the way you structured that, Michael. I could see and feel everything you did.



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