Every once in a while we go on a little rant here about something that bugs us. In the past we’ve done hit jobs on email, voicemail and business cards at various times. But there’s one thing that bugs me more than all of those things put together – the ubiquitous hand shake.
I’m not just talking about the sweaty palms handshake, which sends shudders down my back. I even take issue with the firm and dry handshakes that we engage in every day. I’d like to see the ritual ended.
Hand shaking goes back a long, long way. Wikipedia says it was practiced as far back as the 2nd century BC. The story I’ve always heard is that shaking someone’s hand shows that you hold no weapon. Since most people are right handed and would hold a knife in that hand, we shake right hands.
Whatever the reason for hand shaking, it isn’t needed. Like the Qwerty keyboard (which is designed to slow us down so that the typewriter doesn’t jam), it’s a relic of an older time that’s not only no longer needed but actually causes inefficiency. I can live with the keyboard. But I’d rather not have to catch another flu or cold from a hand shake.
The fact is that hand shakes spread germs. You shake someone’s hand and then touch your nose or mouth and you can get sick. I don’t like getting sick. But to turn down a hand shake is such an insult that there’s little choice. The hand is out there, in front of me waiting, so like everyone else I grasp it.
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. It draws attention, though, and people have pointed it out to me as odd. My response is that it’s nothing personal but I don’t want to get sick. If I get sick I have to take time off and it hurts my business. And there’s a good chance I’ll get other TechCrunchers sick, too, which is doubly bad.
Anyone who pays attention knows that most people don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom, which should be a criminal offense. Probably ten times a week I don’t shake hands with the excuse that I’m “coming down with something,” even though I’m not.
So let’s start a new trend – not shaking hands. You can do a fist touch instead. or a solid, respectful head nod. I’ll even start bowing if I have to. Fox has a couple of other options, but I absolutely refuse to engage in an elbow bump. Other than that I don’t really care. But just like I don’t swap spit with everyone who walks into a room, I’d prefer not to swap germs via the ancient but disgusting habit of shaking hands, either. Deal?
Thanks to Laura Boychenko for researching hand shakes for me. It’s a fascinatingly heathen practice.