NOTE: This story is part of “Together/Alone,” a column from Spectrum News Chief National Political Reporter Josh Robin that explores life during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As a society, just forget about shaking hands. We don’t need to shake hands. We’ve got to break that custom because, as a matter of fact, that is really one of the major ways that you can transmit a respiratory-borne illness.” — Dr. Anthony Fauci, April 7, 2020
The handshake supposedly started as a way to literally disarm the person you were greeting: Extend your hand, grip, and shake the other’s hard enough to see if a dagger spills out of his toga sleeve.
For generations after, the handshake was a sign of cooperation — or at least a sign of outward cordiality.
These days, we are back to being unsure if the other person is wielding a dagger of sorts: we’re each an unwitting viral contagion, carrying our own concealed weapon in the form of the virus. Infectious disease experts say that even if we get a vaccine, it’s best to keep our hands to ourselves.
Two people have a virtual hug in California. (AP)
But what should be the healthy replacement? Fist bump, elbow bump, toe bump, hand to heart, bow — they’re all popular suggestions.
Below, some more ideas:
✋Virtual/in-person handshake: Stand 6 feet apart from the other, each extending a hand as if to handshake. Then, pretend to clasp and shake. Advantage: sterility, plus you can grip as hard or soft as you want without judgement. You’ll never be called a bonecrusher or dead fish again.
✋Above, but with air kisses performed with a loud “mwah!”
A nurse blows a kiss in Oklahoma. (AP)
✋Full bow. Each alternates lying prostrate facing the other. Optional: Exchange a single kiss on the shoes of the other, then partake in a gargling ritual.
✋Extend hand only to abruptly pull hand back while calling “PSYYYYCH!” (Caution: may elicit painful memories of fifth grade).
✋Fist Bump, then Elbow Bump, followed by Hip Check. Then amp up that greeting! Sidle up, back to back, snugly; interlace arms and flip the other over your head.
✋Begin what appears to be the beginnings of a handshake, only to abruptly stop before contact.
Henceforth, exchange intimate details of mutual cleanliness, travel and contacts with others to ascertain respective contagiousness. Finally, engage in an awkward, drawn-out conversation about whether it’s safe to shake hands.
✋Uni-moose: Place a single hand to head, roughly thumb to temple. Extend fingers and flutter to and fro. Note: One-handed is advisable. Doing this with both hands may be unwittingly offensive, as if you are saying nah-nah-nah-nah boo-boo.
✋Wordless hello/how are you combo. Use a thumbs up, sideways or down to simultaneously exchange both greetings and answer the inevitable “How are you” that follows — all without wasting a word. Corresponding facial expressions welcome.
✋The Shy Wave: Wave hand loosely, with a cautious look as you suss out the tone of another's wave. Caution: May elicit memories of seventh grade greetings to the person you had a crush on.
✋Say “let’s shake on that” and then begin to shake hands only to abruptly shake one's whole body, as in a dance to Shake Your Booty or Shake it Off. (Credit: this has long been a schtick of my dad’s to his grandkids).
✋Hand on heart greeting. Then, spread the serenity by closing your eyes and humming a patient, soothing melody.
✋Facing your partner, stack your forearms, one atop the other, chest-level. Then, move around in a circle, singing “round your partner, do-si-do, round your partner, here we go!” Credit/example.
✋Ceremony I. Each bows, and with a flourish, places packaged latex gloves 6 feet or more before the other. Each dons said gloves and clasps hands in the spirit of hygienic cooperation. After handshake, each disposes of gloves in a bonfire to symbolically destroy the bad things each was thinking about the other the whole time.
✋Ceremony II. Each bows, and, with a flourish, pours ample amounts of sanitizer into a fancy pitcher; chanting in an ancient tongue, generously pour over companion’s fingers and hands. Handshake then optional.
✋Potpourri. Awkwardly do a mix of above for several years, until a foolproof vaccine emerges.
THE 7 O’CLOCK CHEER: In New York, seven days a week at 7 p.m., the cheers ricochet across the urban canyons: applause and hoots and banging pots for those fighting this virus, so others can live. It’s for the medical professionals, and first responders, but also grocery workers and postal carriers and package deliverers. There’s no reason why this life-affirming ritual can’t spread to other places, big and small. Years from now, people may remember the silent streets, or the urgent tone of news anchors, or sirens. I hope people also remember the sounds of cheers for people fighting back.
Trapped Parent Tip
INDOOR OLYMPICS: For those without a yard or an open park, set up an indoor athletic competition to get the muscles going. Relay races. Hopscotch. Shot Put (with a soft ball). Be reasonable and safe, but at the same time this is a perfect time to temporarily lift the “no running in the house” rule.