President Bush supposedly advised President-elect Obama always to use a hand sanitizer when shaking hands. Now we know why. When you shake a hand, you get enough germs to catch pneumonia.
Many pundits are out there predicting what the "new normal" will look like post-pandemic. There can be no question that we will all start looking at personal hygiene differently. Already, the age-old custom of shaking hands is almost considered a threat. For that matter, the cultural variances in handshakes was so extreme even pre-pandemic that we all risked committing a faux pas whenever we grabbed someone's hand. See https://www.businessinsider.com/handshakes-around-the-world-2-2017. Pres. Obama's successor would just as soon do away with handshakes completely. He'd like to see us adopt the Asian custom of bowing.
Now I agree with The Donald on, well, practically nothing. But I have to admit he has a point when it comes to the handshake. It is an anachronism in business settings. The handshake evolved in olden days because it kept a potential adversary's hand busy so he could not use it to go for his sword. https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/37713970. Well, we don't carry swords anymore. Our weapons are not in scabbards but in our heads, our bank books, and our contact lists. Today, we can stab you in the back even if we shake both your hands and kiss you on both cheeks all at once.
Still, much as I admire the Asian custom of bowing, I can't see Trump doing it once someone explains to him what it means. Bowing expresses humility, and the deeper you bow the more deference you show to the other person.
It's difficult to imagine what sort of deference Trump would show by bowing, and to whom he would show it. More likely he'd adopt a reverse bow, throwing his head back instead of forward, like in that Mussolini chin strut he puts on every once in a while.
But some alternatives to the handshake can only be described as silly. We've been treated to a mishmash of elbow bumps, toe taps, handshakes en passant, and who knows what else.
We don't need to invent new ways to greet each other, do we? The Chinese and Japanese bow seems a thoroughly civilized gesture of greeting, but it's not the only one. Yoga practitioners are familiar with the Indian salute, with a prayer stance and a namaste. The namaste is actually a sacred gesture to the god within the other. In essence the namaste says, "I pray to the god within you."
Again, it is a wonderfully civilized gesture. It's just that, like the Asian bow, it's not us. We bow to no one, and it stretches credulity to think that any self-respecting god would abide in such depraved beings as we are.
One idea that I like is to adopt the Vulcan split finger greeting, and say "Live Long and Prosper."
That greeting is not as fictional as some think. Leonard Nimoy, raised in an Orthodox Jewish family, remembered seeing it in services. It represents the Hebrew letter shin. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2015/02/27/the-jewish-roots-of-leonard-nimoy-and-live-long-and-prosper/. "The Hebrew letter shin, he noted, is the first letter in several Hebrew words, including Shaddai (a name for God), Shalom (the word for hello, goodbye and peace) and Shekhinah, which he defined as 'the feminine aspect of God who supposedly was created to live among humans.' " Nimoy single-handedly embedded this bit of Judaica into the Star Trek universe, where it can apply to all of us.
Still, given our rather rapacious capitalist system -- which is after all where the handshake normally would reside -- the idea that we would in full sincerity wish anyone but ourselves to live long and, especially, to prosper, is a stretch.
Maybe our new greeting should take its cue from our public health instructions. We have all been told not to cough or sneeze into the air or into our hands, but into the crook of our elbow.
If you start with your nose in the crook of the elbow of one arm, and simultaneously extend your other arm so that it is parallel with the arm being sneezed into, what you have is the "dab." The dab is a somewhat pretentious pose that hilariously befuddled House Speaker Paul Ryan a few years back.
Yes, it's ridiculous, but we've seen worse. And it is hard to imagine a greeting more attuned to the moment.
Okay, now let's get serious. We already have a perfectly respectable greeting we can use instead of a handshake. Unlike the elbow bump, we can use it in a Zoom meeting. Unlike the bow or the namaste, it is not freighted with alien metaphysical content. Nor is it, like the Vulcan salute, even alien.
The gesture for "hello" in English Sign Language is a simple hand salute from your forehead, the casual sort a grizzled naval captain would return to an overly impressed junior seaman his first time on deck.
I think it suits us perfectly. A friend objected that it seemed too casual, like it wouldn't go well with the three-piece suits that he's never worn. Ours is now a fully casual society, and likely to become even more so after Covid 19 as more and more work will be done remotely and online. And let's face it: many of us are as deaf to the world as those who actually depends on ESL. We can appropriate the sign for "hello" without feeling one bit guilty.
Someday, we may no longer fear the physical touch of another human being. Until then, a simple hand gesture to say "hello in there" is really all we need.
Aegis Frumento is a partner of Stern Tannenbaum & Bell, and co-heads the firm's Financial Markets Practice. Mr. Frumento represents persons and businesses in all aspects of commercial, corporate and securities matters and dispute resolution (including trials and arbitrations); SEC and FINRA regulated firms and persons on regulatory compliance issues and in SEC and FINRA enforcement investigations and proceedings; and senior executives of public corporations personal securities law and corporate governance matters. Mr. Frumento also represents clients in forming and registering broker-dealers and registered investment advisers, in developing compliance policies, procedures and controls, and in adopting proper disclosure documents. Those now include industry professionals looking to adapt blockchain technologies to finance and financial market enterprises.
Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Frumento was a managing director of Citigroup and Morgan Stanley, a partner and the head of the financial markets group of Duane Morris LLP, and the managing partner of Singer Frumento LLP.
He graduated from Harvard College in 1976 and New York University School of Law in 1979. Mr. Frumento is a frequent author and speaker on securities law issues, and is often quoted in the media on current securities law developments.
NOTE: The views expressed in this Guest Blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of BrokeAndBroker.com Blog.