David Trinko: What to do if you can’t shake hands

By David Trinko - Contributing columnist

Before a Thursday meeting at the newspaper with several elected officials, I walked over to greet our guests.

I froze.

“So, what do we do now?” I asked.

In a world full of fear of spreading coronavirus, I knew shaking hands was out of the question. But what’s the replacement?

For those of us who have enough trouble keeping up on social norms and conventions, the handshake was always a constant. I always aimed for firm but not crushing. I generally wash my hands before I knew I’d be shaking hands with anyone. You know, health concerns and stuff. Usually my biggest fear would be not drying my hands thoroughly enough, leaving someone thinking I sweat profusely. (I do, but not through my hands.)

They’ve banned handshakes in England’s Premier League. The Dutch prime minister announced a no-handshake rule (then turned and shook a health official’s hand before apologizing).

So there I stood, pausing for a moment, before we agreed the fist bump was the most safety-conscious greeting in a world where COVID-19 closes schools and stops large gatherings from happening.

I’ve always been a big fan of the fist bump, but I’m not sure about it in formal situations. When I coached youth basketball, I’d chat with each player before the game, providing a fist bump and a word of encouragement. Each of my children has her own specialized fist bump, although I sometimes mix them up from child to child when the hand should “explode” into opening or whether there are two or three taps from varying directions.

There are other greetings out there, of course. The non-nerd community seems to be on the cusp of embracing Spock’s “live long and prosper” greeting from Star Trek, with your fingers all together aside from the ring and middle fingers spreading apart. Unfortunately, unless you’re a nerd who has used that greeting before, it can be difficult to pull off on the fly.

I was at an event at Bowling Green State University on Wednesday, the day after they announced the cessation of classes. The people there decided the safest greeting was an elbow bump. Frankly, it felt like an awkward version of the chicken dance to me.

Some people are switching to a prayer gesture, with your two hands put together and a slight bow. Others opt for the traditional Asian bow.

The youth apparently are doing something called “the Wuhan shake,” named after the Chinese province where the virus outbreak began. Apparently you tap the inside of your right shoe into the inside of the right shoe of the other person, before doing the same thing with your left foot.

Then you turn yourself around. That’s what it’s all about. Wait, that’s the Hokey Pokey. Maybe that’ll be the next big greeting.


By David Trinko

Contributing columnist

David Trinko is managing editor of The Lima News, an AIM Media Midwest newspaper. Reach him at 567-242-0467, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.

David Trinko is managing editor of The Lima News, an AIM Media Midwest newspaper. Reach him at 567-242-0467, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.