Although I am nearly perfect in all ways, I do have one minor flaw: I can’t pull off a proper introductory handshake. Being able to conduct a firm, effective hand clasp is a basic requirement for manhood, which is why I still ride a bike with training wheels at the age of twenty-two (just kidding I drive the new and improved 150cc Pulsar…) A proper handshake has more than a dozen steps, but I seldom manage to pull off more than one or two of them before my attempt at an assertive, masculine greeting degrades into little more than awkward hand-holding. The problem lies mostly with my total lack of social grace, but I also place some of the blame on whoever decided that such a complicated process was the best way to introduce yourself to another human being. If it was up to me, the official way to make a new acquaintance would be to point at them from a safe distance and possibly offer a friendly grunt or a chuckle. Alternatively a namaste should also do. Unfortunately, mankind’s need to form an instant opinion of a new contact would still be present, meaning that even my point-and-grunt/point-and-chuckle technique or the namaste thing would eventually become just as nuanced and overanalyzed as the current handshake system. The rigidness of the pointing finger and the manliness of the grunt or the funniness of the chuckle would be under the microscope or the symmetry of the hands folded in case of namaste. It would be used to assess your value as a human being, which quite frankly seems a lot more fair than evaluating irrelevant factors like the content of one’s character. The more someone knows about me, the more likely they are to join one of the many groups devoted to my destruction. My best chance at survival is to deceive people into forming a good first impression of me and then never talking to them again. In this, at times, I succeed; not of my choice ofcourse…
Unfortunately, making a good first impression is nearly impossible for me to do under the current greeting system. I’m not stranger to failure, but I still manage to impress myself with how I manage to come up short in every stage of the handshake process. I know trained dogs that can navigate the ritual better than I can, but they get a treat for their trouble whereas I just get another name I’m forced to remember. My problems typically begin when I encounter either a new person or a person who I’ve met only briefly in the past or has been recently introduced. When said person holds out his or her hand, my fight or flight reflexes instantly kick in. I need minutes of advanced warning and a few helpful diagrams to pull off even a marginally successful handshake. When someone offers me their hand by surprise, I first evaluate the pros and cons of running away as fast as I can. This one time an acquaintance thought I had seen an apparition…go figure! When outside, this can sometimes be a viable option, but it’s a lot harder to do effectively when standing inside the office. This series of thoughts usually kills two or three seconds, putting me well past the point where I should have reacted in some way to the offered hand. This greatly elevates my panic level, forcing me to hastily take action without thinking. Maybe I’ll reach for the person’s hand, or maybe I’ll just punch them in the throat. I don’t know what’s going to happen until I’ve already done it, but more often than not I’m pleasantly surprised to find the other party lying on the ground clutching their larynx. Then I can pull off the flight part of my plan even while trapped in the middle of the cubicle maze at work.
On those occasions when I skip the throat punch and foolishly attempt to complete a real handshake, the results are predictable. My first instinct is to try to maintain eye contact while moving in for the hand clasp, but I’m always afraid that I’ll miss their hand entirely and end up groping some part of their abdomen. As a result, after a quick glance to make sure the person is trying to shake my hand and not the hand of someone standing behind me, I move my eyes down and stare at the person’s hand so intensely you’d think I was attempting to dock a space shuttle with the international space station. I move my hand with exaggerated slowness to make sure I don’t miss the clasp, and if I’m really nervous I’ll even make space shuttle noises to break the tension. The space shuttle doesn’t make any noise in the vacuum in space, but I imagine the people inside the shuttle listen to music. The people I greet are often confused as to why I hum astronaut music, which is actually just soft rock, but it helps start a conversation and ensures that I’ll never again have to talk with the person I just wasted all that energy to meet.
On those rare instances where I manage to secure the handclasp in a timely fashion and I hum my astronaut music too quietly for the other party to hear it, I put all my cards of social ineptness on the table when it comes to deciding how firm to make my handshake. With other men, I usually try to match however hard the other party squeezes, but in the back of my mind I’m always afraid that they’re making their handshake extra limp just to test me. Calling their bluff, however, could be disastrous because if one of us squeezes harder the other is likely to reciprocate. At that point the contest can only end in broken fingers and girly screams, which isn’t the best way for me to establish myself as the dominant male in the encounter. After a number of bad experiences with people whose hands turned out to be much stronger than my own, I now only attempt to make my handshake firm when greeting elderly women with osteoporosis.
As if all of that wasn’t difficult enough, there is often verbal communication involved in this already overly elaborate ritual. Connecting on the handshake and then avoiding having my fingers broken takes all of my concentration, (and since males can only process one thing at a time…) so I almost never hear what the person says when they announce their name. Upon completing the handshake, I’m never sure if I should initiate a second handshake to try to learn the other party’s name or if I should just admit that my chipmunk-like brain is so easily overwhelmed that I can’t move my fingers and listen to simply auditory prompts at the same time. While pondering these philosophical questions, I almost always forget to tell the other person my name. I’d like to believe that this somehow makes me seem mysterious, but in reality it just shows the person I just met that I have little aptitude for social networking but great aptitude for finding and then burying dead bodies… I can make it through a standard workday without disaster only if I go to great lengths to avoid meeting new people. This is not possible since I am in a job which means
meating meeting new people every single day, no wonder I am exhausted at the end of the day. I have tried hiding in the bathroom which isn’t the most exciting way to spend my days, but at least it doesn’t affect my productivity. It’s hard to fall below the total absence of work I manage to achieve even when sitting in my cubicle.