I Shake Hands Like Howard Hughes

Perhaps I really am becoming a slight recluse, more and more curmodgenly every day, shaving less, letting my finger nails grow too long… and like Howard, becoming germophobic. Actually I’m not that bad but I am starting to try, more consciously, to reduce contact with strangers, particually the act of shaking hands. I’ve actually started shying away from/declining the act of shaking hands, and it’s not always met with the greatest of understanding.

I don’t know when and where the custom originated but I’d expect it dates back to the time of practicing ‘bleedings’ and leaches in the medical community, and telegrams and Morse code in the communications industry. But while those have gone the way of other socially irrelevant practices such as curtseys and hat tipping, this one’s stuck around and is overwhelmingly practiced in the work place.

What’s got me started on this was a work in progress on bathroom etiquette [yet to be published at this point] and a fellow bloggers well stated observations on the act of hand washing at the workplace. If you just start your day with this image and consciously observe and note how your fellow beings use their hands each day, you’ll quickly be hopping on my bandwagon and never wish to shake the hand of even the closest of friends without a little more understanding of ‘where that hand’s been’.

Without exaggeration, in a given day, I’ve seen people do any combination of the following with their hands: Pet, rub or be licked by their dog or cat. Wipe or rub their eyes, nose or mouths. Pull some bone, gristle or other food object from their mouth or teeth. Change a child’s diaper. Wipe or dust off a desk or counter with their hands. Lick something off their fingers…. and the list goes on from there.

I was never this ‘aware’ of germs and such until having kids. It was at this point that we learned that the two most prevalent ways that germs are passed around are 1: Shaking hands, and 2: drinking from the same cup/bottle. It turns out that our hands and mouths are bacteria central, the combination of the two only accelerating the passage between humans.

Sure, I have an immune system, and I’m sure that 80% of the possible issues i might encounter are thwarted by my very prevelenant and aggressive posse of white blood cells (gang name: the Bloods). And yes, as many parents probably do once they have kids, we have hand wash located about the house and even one in my office. But even then, just *knowing* about the things people do with their hands, without ill intent or malice, makes it really REALLY freaky for me to consider that a fist that might have recently been in what I might consider a compromising position, would subsequently be gripping my own hand. It’s just a bit disturbing. Not quite ‘Charles Manson‘ disturbing, but more along the lines of ‘American Idol is still on the air but Arrested Development got canceled‘ disturbing.


Written by gsm

09/27/2006 at 8:39 am

Posted in  Journal 

3 Responses

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  1. Hughes? I’m picturing Adrian Monk, myself…



    09/27/2006 at 3:02 pm

  2. … and just think, anti-bacterial soap helps create SUPER GERMS that are even more damaging to our immune system and less resistant to antibiotics.
    But good luck trying to find anything but anti-bacterial soap on the shelves, thanks to people who clamor for this ‘extra protection’ when simply washing live germs down the drain is sufficient to prevent illness. They are, incidentally, the same people who make McDonalds the most popular restaurant in the country.


    09/28/2006 at 2:44 pm

  3. BTW, a buddy of mine who is the manager of restaurant health inspectors in a major western city (not in CA) says that these hand sanitizers are slightly more than worthless. They’re psychological effect is the basis of their sales (kind of like Airborne(tm) for colds. -JF

    Jon Fuelleman

    10/04/2006 at 9:08 am

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