By MOHAMED HAMALUDIN
I do not recall just when it started but for the past couple of years I have been shaking hands with everyone I meet, or at least offer my hand in greeting.
Mostly, the gesture is warmly accepted and for those reluctant to shake hands I offer a fist bump, which is equally well received.
There is no special reason for it, other than being a friendly gesture that began one day when I impulsively stretched out my hand to a cashier who seemed especially burdened by work.
Being retired, I meet only a small number of people in any given day, mostly at places I frequent as part of my routine activities, such as shopping, buying gas or stamps and visiting the doctor or dentist.
Generally, those to whom I extend my hand take it, often with a dubious smile. I make it a point to check whether he or she has a name tag. If so, I greet him or her by name and ask, “How are you?” On rare occasions, the gesture ends in a hug. Several people have said after a handshake, “That is just what I needed.”
After I shook a cashier’s hand and paid my bill, I noticed that she charged me about 40 percent less than the listed price of the item. I realized she must have given me an employee discount.
One cashier gazed suspiciously at me as I extended my hand and then took it in hers. “I do not usually do this,” she said, “but I can see that you are being sincere and I will make an exception for you.”
An elderly man who bags groceries seeks me out whenever I visit so he can grab my hand.
The fist bump is especially useful when the person’s job makes it unsuitable to shake hands, such as in food service. One deli worker makes it a point to come up to me for such a greeting.
A few people have flatly refused either a handshake or a fist bump, saying that they have a cold or offering some other reason. A smaller number have said they do not shake hands and, on very rare occasions, do not do fist-bumping either.
I have discovered that some people do not know what the fist bump is and awkwardly offer their hands and I have to bring them to mine to complete the greeting – to their obvious bemusement.
More recently, I expanded my efforts at greeting people by raising my hand to every passing motorist when on strolls in my community. They overwhelmingly wave back or toot their horns – or both. A few have raised their hands before I could do so.
But trying to make nice does not always work. A few days ago, as I went to get Lottery tickets, I politely asked a woman if she was in the line. She not only said she was but loudly added, “I do not want anybody behind me.” I concluded that it would not be wise to offer a handshake.
Then there was the incident at the gym. I was in an exercise area where those working out included a young man and woman. At one point I had to go close to them to do one of my routines and in short order the guy came up and asked me to leave. I asked him why and he said he just wanted me to leave. I was finishing my workout and it was no problem moving away.
I saw them again a week later, went up to the guy and offered my hand and he took it. I asked him for an explanation for the other day and he told me that the girl had complained to him that I was staring at her and making her uncomfortable.
I asked if she was his girlfriend and, after he said yes, I told him I was sorry she felt that way but while I may have been gazing in her direction, at age 74 my most pressing concern at the gym is getting through my workout, not ogling. I asked him to let her know that and he said he would. He said he was glad I contacted him. We shook hands before I left.
I saw them again a week later and went up to the guy and again we shook hands. I asked him if he passed my message on to his girlfriend. He said he did and she said she understood. I told him that I hoped they marry and come to know the joys of marital life.
“I can tell you from first-hand experience,” I said. “I have been married 50 years.” “Awesome,” he replied and we shook hands and parted.
Mohamed Hamaludin is a former editor of South Florida Times.