Published in


First We Sanitize, Then I Crush Your Delicate Hand

In the game of grips, you either win or die. Well, maybe not die.

A closeup of two Black men’s hands clasped in the most perfect of greetings in an office setting
Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash

Welcome. You can take that mask off; we’re all vaccinated h — Oh. Well, leave it on if you prefer. I wouldn’t want you to feel unsafe for your big interview. It’s good to meet you.

What? You’re not comfortable shaking hands? I’m afraid that will not do.

No, that will not do at all. Even in this new normal, the clasping of hands upon first meeting remains essential. For how else am I to gauge your inner strength? Your résumé? Experience? Bah! Your references from Aadam’s Aardvark Shaack mean nothing to me — the measure of a man is in his grip. Whenever strangers seek to know each other — to truly know each other, not merely as acquaintances or future coworkers but on the deepest level of the human soul — they must face off in the sacred ritual of hand-in-hand combat. Thus it has always been; thus it shall always be.

You laugh. Clearly, you have never been in a position to hire anyone. Obedience training is a trying business; only the hardiest souls can wrangle eight-week-old labradoodles for eleven-seventy-five an hour. Before I throw you to the descendants of wolves, I must know that you are the alpha of the pack, born with the strength to lead lesser creatures. I speak from experience. Yes, Davey the Doberman hobbled for a week after I taught him to shake, but he gave me no trouble afterward, and his owner learned a valuable lesson about his chosen companion. I expect no less from my employees. You have to be tough as nails to work here.

Nails, incidentally, are cheating. I once had a candidate dig his razor-sharp fingernails deep into my palm in a vain attempt to gain advantage over me. What vile sportsmanship! Like Chong Li throwing sand into Frank Dux’s eyes during the climactic battle of Bloodsport, he disrespected his opponent and the contest itself — and no more effectively. Blood rained down from my torn-open palm, but I endured his treachery without so much as a blink, and I met him with a pure and uncompromising handshake that crushed both his metacarpals and his junior varsity pitching career to dust. I felt no remorse; the villain brought it upon himself and his weak, effeminate hands.

I say effeminate, but there is no room for prejudice in the five-fingered arena. Some of my best workers have been women — women with hands like clamps, whose firm, powerful grips proved their worth in a way that no Masters’ degree in animal psychology ever could. The handshake is the great equalizer, and I will not permit some puny microorganism without so much as a graspable pseudopod to banish it from our lives.

Come, take this hand sanitizer. Let me squeeze it for you; you should save your strength for the challenge ahead. One pump? Two? I prefer two pumps, but use however much makes you comfortable. And some for me as well. Now, swirl it in your hands. Enjoy the fresh, tingly feeling of germ-free palms and fingers, ready for close contact with a stranger, like your mouth after a vigorous rinse with Listerine or my nether regions after a quality Brazilian-style waxing. Are you prepared? Your hand is ready, but is your mind? Good. Then let the contest commence. Put ‘er there.


Good lord, my hand! My precious, beautiful hand! Oh, what cruel and unforeseeable irony! Never again will these mangled digits embrace the flesh of another; we have met our master. I bow to you, oh god of the grip. You can start right away.

But first, could you drive me to the emergency room?

Follow Slackjaw on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Steven Stampone

Humorist. Serious-ist. Supercallafragilisticexpialodoc-ist. You get the gist. for more.