Fighter pilot, Royal Navy 1945, Hydrographer Iraq 1947-52 India 1952-53, Canadian Hydrographic Arctic explorer 1953-1960, Writer-producer Canadian National Film Board 1961-72, Freelance journalist, audio-visual producer 1972-2009, National Press Club of Canada 1961 - 2006

Friday, July 31, 2009

A touch of privacy

A Needless Profuseness of Entwining Palms

With all this H1N1-swine flu business swirling about the authorities are encouraging all hands to wash their hands any time they are at a loss for anything else to do. Also entering health centres now usually means the mandatory squirting of antibacterial gloop on one’s hands.

So I reckon it’s high time for our political masters of either sex to discourage the outmoded wanton habit of people shaking hands for little or no reason.

English people, and I think also the Scottish and the Welsh, and maybe the Irish, way back when, (and I mean way back when like when English people were actually called English), well all these I seem to remember, seldom used to shake hands. I mean six or seven decades ago most Brits were quite informal in a civilized sort of way. Whereas other peoples and many foreigners spent most of their days shaking each others’ hands — in between bouts of killing each other. For all I know they may still do so. Shake hands a lot, I mean. In fact I know some actually do get up at odd intervals during the night to shake hands with one another. In the morning they religiously shake hands with everyone they know or don’t know. In a group they repeat this performance even if they only left the group for a few minutes to go to the toilet for a quick pee, where they nevertheless take time to shake hands with all the other guys standing and sitting around in the bog. Then they rejoin their group and shake hands with everybody again. After, of course, one hopes, washing their hands.

A guy who sticks out his mitt directly you’re positioned face-to-face with him always strikes me as a guy who wants to sell you something either material, ephemeral or morally questionable.

I mean when I meet a very close old shipmate, squadronmate, or actual blood brother, even after years of absence, I might give such a special guy a brief arm hug but seldom shake his hand. That would be so formal and he’d suspect I wanted to con him into something.

I used to drink with Ron Power a couple of times a week for many years in the club. He came from Ilford and we had gone to the same school in the 1930s. He had spent a very long, adventurous and active war and we had a lot in common. But I can never remember shaking his hand. Same with lots of others, dead and gone. Come to think of it, I cannot remember shaking hands with my wife. Ever. Is that strange?

I wonder if this personal quirk is a social impediment? In fact when some stranger, acquaintance, neighbour, politician or friend sticks out their hand to me it takes me a while to fathom out what they’re doing. Or want. Then if I do react and pick it up I forget how long to keep it grasped and tend to embarrassingly hang on to it for no reason, which just compounds my unease, initial hesitation, and surprise.

Though when I meet with lawyers, financial advisors and other approved professionals (but not doctors) it seems ok to shake their hands.

I wonder why?

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