I have a doctor I really like.  He knows his meds, has a good bedside manner, and has a few moments to spare in an appointment to discuss our common interest: baseball.  At the end of our time, we shake hands.  I think I get as much help from that sincere gesture as I do from any pill.

Somewhere along the line, I was told the “handshake” began as a custom between Medieval knights who wanted to talk, not joust.  They took off gloves from their right hands, indicating they meant no threat, and had a chat about somebody nicknamed “Greensleeves.”  True?

However, among a number of other possibilities, records indicate Greeks in the 5th century B.C. shook hands possibly in a peaceful gesture.  Art work shows no weapons in their hands.  Today, you can shake a person’s hand to indicate meeting, greeting, parting, or congratulating.  It’s a sign of being aware of social graces.

Ice Hockey - Men's Gold Medal Game - Day 17

At the end of every NHL championship, players from both teams line up opposite each other and shake hands while passing in line at mid-ice.  It happens even if it requires peacefully grasping the hand of someone who tried to alter your extensive dental work 10 minutes earlier.

In English speaking countries, men are more likely to shake hands than women.  But if you are in Switzerland, it’s OK to shake a women’s hand.  Austrians include kids, but in Russia, it can be complicated.  When there, greet a lady by kissing her hand, don’t shake it.  Make sure men don’t shake Mrs. Putin’s hand or kiss Vladimir’s.  (Oops.  They divorced in April, 2014.  Crisis averted.)

kiss2In some countries, a kiss on each cheek is added to a handshake.  Afterward, the palm may be placed on the heart. In China, a weak handshake is preferred, and hands are clasped for a period of time after the shake.  In Japan? Weak shake is the choice.  In India, a handshake is replaced by the Namaste gesture (palms together, fingers pointed upward) with a slight bow  —although in business and formal settings, handshakes are desired.  But in Norway, a firm handshake is the choice.

Got all that?  A quiz will follow.  Possession of your passport hangs in the balance.

shake4With politicians, a “handhug” —clasped hands are covered with the free hand— is meant to be friendly and sincere.  (Who doesn’t believe that?)  Also, shaking hands in public may be continued while turning to cameras for a photograph.  Big smile.  In parts of Africa, the hands remain held indicating a conversation is continuing between two people.  Don’t interrupt. Scouts will shake with their left hand as a gesture of trust —as did the founder of the movement, Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell.  (I’m not making that name up.)

teddyAnd then there are handshaking records.  Teddy Roosevelt shook 8,510 hands at a reception in 1907.  An Atlantic City Mayor, in 1977, broke that record with 11,000+ handshakes in a day.  In 2008, on Memorial Day, two friends in Iowa set a record for longest handshake at 9 hours and 30 minutes.  The record was broken in  California (where else?) with a  15 hour, 15 minute, 15 second shake.  It was broken again —twice.  The latest record (it is assumed) stands at 33 hours and 3 minutes.

shake6Of course, there are the fist bump and high five and secret handshakes in secret societies or among family members and among professional athletes for doing something significant with/to a ball.  And on and on it goes.

For myself, I like my 2 brothers-in-law, although I give John a smile and good eye contact, in addition to a handshake of exactly the right pressure.  Best guy I’ve ever known.  I know I’m getting my point across, and, besides, David is too hyperactive to linger, anyway.

Personally, I shake hands to say hello or good-bye to men, and kiss my sisters-in-law on obamaone cheek.  A pat on the back or shoulder is always appreciated.  Then, there’s always Churchill’s V for Victory salute to almost everyone for almost all occasions.  And do we count, in polite company, the single finger salute so goodbyepopular on American highways as a form of driving approval?  Of course we do.

And to end on an honest note: after reading 8 articles online, and seeing more available, I must say enough is enough.  Add your own hand flourish. This ain’t no dissertation.


About rcarmean

Two things... First, why have I decided to establish this blog? I like to put essays together. I research an idea or topic looking for information, statistics, stories, quotes, pictures, etc. I enjoy the process and seeing a finished product. I’m told that as I get older, new activities can help maintain energy and keep my brain alert. In other words, I am not doing this for money or fame. Second, regarding the gentleman in the collage of pictures's not me. Those are photos of Christy Mathewson. Why him? When I was young, my primary activity was being sick. It took up much of my time. Eczema (a case so bad I was written up in a medical journal showing doctors what their patients COULD look like), asthma, and allergies. You know allergies: don’t eat this, don’t wear that, and, for Heaven’s sake, don’t touch any of these things (eg, dogs, cats, horses --I only saw horses in cowboy movies and TV shows, dust, swimming pools, my brother --OK, that’s an exaggeration, Rick was a fine brother). In my spare time between doctors' appointments, pills, and ointments, baseball kept me sane. In the 1940s and 1950s, when I grew up, pro footballI and basketball had not yet become extremely popular. Baseball truly was “the national pastime.” I listened to games on the radio (remember it? TV without the picture). I read magazines, books, and newspaper accounts of games. I collected baseball cards. I learned about the game’s history, as well as present. The same with its stars. One man stood out: Christy Mathewson. He was a great pitcher for the New York Giants in the early 20th century. But there was much more to him. At a time when professional athletes made little money (yes, there was such a time) and ball players were considered on the same level as actors, artists, and prostitutes, Mathewson stood out. One of his nicknames was: “The Christian Gentleman.” Most men is baseball drank, smoked, cursed, and fought —with other players, umpires, and fans. The fights were physical, not just verbal. Mathewson did none of these things. But he earned the respect of other players who did them all. Even Ty Cobb and John McGraw. There’s more. He was a college graduate (Bucknell University) when most men were lucky to have a high school diploma. He played other sports, including pro football which you wouldn’t recognize. He was handsome. He played in New York City, then as now, the largest city in the country. Excellence and popularity there meant fame and money. He dressed well. Today, his commercials would rival LeBron’s. And, finally, a hero’s life must have tragedy. After his playing career ended, WWI arrived. He suffered from influenza and was exposed to mustard gas. Chemical warfare. His lungs were damaged and he required treatment for the rest of his life. (Like my Grandfather who also fought in The Great War.) He died in 1925. He was 45 years old. I have his picture here because you need to know more about him than me. He was what an athlete could be. Players like him and their accomplishments got me through a sickly, painful childhood and can still sustain me in difficult times. *****
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