Surfer/Writer/Burrito Enthusiast

Shaking hands with someone is dodgy at best. It’s a tango of rules and procedures that many try to perfect, but few truly get right: Hold hand firm, but don’t squeeze the life out of the other person’s palm. Move hand up and down a few times, but do not shake too aggressively. Make eye contact, but don’t be creepy. Let simmer for 1 to 3 shakes before releasing grip – never linger. And that’s before we even get to the fact that we’re living in the time of COVID and you’re likely wrapping your fingers around someone’s unwashed, germ-spackled hand.

Most flub their lines, either ignoring local hand hug laws or misinterpreting what firm means. This results in the majority of encounters ranging somewhere from forgettable to awkward. It seems the only reason people remember and value a “good” handshake is because they are so few and far between.

To make matters worse, society has concocted the bizarre belief that caressing another human’s smartphone appendage is not only the ideal way to recognize them, but supposedly also opens a window into their soul. According to this article, a handshake is supposed to convey your confidence, character, and trustworthiness. But a handshake conveys none of those things; it just lets me know who I can rely on to open a stubborn jar.

Handshakes easily receive more critical attention than a WSL heat. If I clasp too firmly, I am a used car salesman here to swindle you. But if I don’t grip hard enough, I am an anemic simpleton. It’s silly to put so much emphasis on one gesture that encompasses so much grey area.

In the end, all most of us want to do is say hello without having our entire character called into question by an arbitrary Shake-O-Meter. This is why I propose eliminating the handshake altogether and replacing it with the beloved shaka.

The shaka is a well-engineered salutation that is impossible to screw up. By extending the pinky and thumb, curling the remaining three fingers, and shaking a couple of times, you can easily greet someone or express gratitude without the exchange devolving into  a mind-reading session or vague power struggle. If your outstretched fingers are a little too stiff, or if your wrist rotation a bit rigid, no one cares! You do not need to spend the next few hours agonizing and dissecting every little squeeze. The intended message has been received.

Friendly, inviting, and non-confrontational, the shaka is everything our traditional hand greeting is not. It is a puppy, always jubilant and elated to see you, no matter how bumbling and awkward it may be. No one ever flashes a depressed shaka. An ironic or angry one, sure, but never a sad shaka. And you never have to touch another person! If there is one thing we have learned from the Coronavirus, it’s that the majority of us do not wash our hands despite being surrounded by the marvel of indoor plumbing.

The handshake is an antiquated aloha. It’s like a duel between two combatants trying to wring every last drop of hand juice out of one another while swapping rare strains of bubonic plague. I don’t want to engage in a watered-down arm-wrestling contest with someone just to welcome them into a room. Nor do I want to subject myself to criticism for how I choose to physically express the word “howdy.” I just need something to do with my hands to tell you that I’m glad to see you, and the shaka fits that bill perfectly.


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