Shaking Hands

Thanks to Tom Hiller for suggesting this one!

I probably shook more hands during my two years in Togo than I will for the rest of my life. When you entered a room, you shook everybody's hands. When you left, you shook everybody's hands. Little children would run up to you on the street with their hands outstretched and a gleeful grin in anticipation of a handshake, and at least for your first few weeks in the country you would oblige them... they made you feel like the U.S. ambassador.

I must confess I never mastered the “snap” handshake that the Togolese were so fond of, so that when one of them tried to shake my hands in such a manner, I would wind up giving what must have seemed to them the equivalent of a “cold fish” handshake in this country. (I'm not quite sure, but I think there's some correlation between a volunteer's ability to do the snap handshake and his or her daily BB intake.)

The handshake habit was an easy one to pick up when you arrived in Togo, but when you returned to the U.S., it was a tough one to, well, shake. Your optometrist probably thought it was weird enough when you shook his hand when you went in for your appointment, but when you shook his hand when you left he definitely put you in the nutcase category. Tom Hiller describes a situation we probably all can too easily identify with: the startled look he got from a busdriver in the U.S. when Tom reached out to shake his hand before asking for directions!

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