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My thoroughly selfish take on the coronavirus no-handshake plan

For politicians and clerics, for whom fraternising with all and sundry is an occupational hazard, this is a very difficult time

In Summary

• I have the creeping excitement it could help humanity evolve from tactile greetings

President Uhuru Kenyatta greets Opposition leader Raila Odinga of the National Super Alliance after addressing a news conference at Harambee House in Nairobi, March 9, 2018
President Uhuru Kenyatta greets Opposition leader Raila Odinga of the National Super Alliance after addressing a news conference at Harambee House in Nairobi, March 9, 2018
Image: REUTERS

If it is accepted that it's an ill wind that blows no one any good, then the upside to the whole coronavirus situation is that shaking hands, hugging and kissing perfect strangers is no longer appropriate.

I can hardly express how this fact fills me with absolute joy. I have written here before about how the only reason I shake hands with most people is because it's a social-cultural convention that needs to be engaged in, unless you are deliberately trying to offend. 

 

One of the reasons I abhor shaking hands is the fact that I have spent many hours observing people in the traffic and elsewhere when they think they are invisible. I've seen them pick their noses and skip the hand washing in the loo and then go and shake hands or touch others or worse, share food with those same hands, and it turns my stomach. 

 
 

I ascribe this to the fact that I remember growing up during a cholera outbreak in Nairobi and elsewhere back in the early to mid-1970s, when handshakes were frowned upon and regular and thorough handwashing became de rigueur for my generation. Also, I am not a naturally tactile person. 

Of course, there are those for whom this is a very difficult time. 

Politicians and religious leaders, for instance. For such people, shaking hands, kissing and hugging strangers, enemies and friends (in politics, these roles are constantly changing, as we know) is part of the job. You'd have to be crazy to take a job in either field if you had a problem with being needlessly tactile. 

I recently attended the provincial budget reading at the Legislature here in Cape Town, and despite the news being full of the coronavirus, most of the politicians were still stretching out their hands for a handshake. 

A few savvy ones made a show of tapping each other's feet, or more precisely, shoes, while others made awkward attempts at the fist bump or elbow tap.

Depending on how long this virus hangs around, I can't help the creeping excitement that it could help humanity evolve from tactile greetings. Talk about clouds and silver lining.

 

The other great advantage is more people working from home. This will mean less traffic on the roads and for those of us who must still drive into the CBD,  there will be more parking available. 

 
 

For the 'Save the Earth' brigade, fewer cars on the road while people work at home will surely mean better quality breathable air and less pollution is good for the planet, right?

Meanwhile, talking of handshakes, if this virus had been around and as vicious back in March 2018, might Kenyan political parlance be different today? 

Instead of shaking hands, would Raila and Uhuru have tapped toes, touched elbows or shared a fist bump? Or would their aides have been standing by with a basin of hot water soap and a towel like at some nyama choma joints? 

Somehow, I think hand sanitiser might have sent the wrong message, although I wouldn't be surprised if their political rivals and those who are against the deal, didn't agree.

Edited by T Jalio