When I was at Truck Festival earlier this summer, I made a brief, at the time unimportant choice which has lead to a rather liberating decision in my life that I am enjoying greatly.
If I recall correctly, I was stood outside the village pub tent where I bumped into my chum Stuart Fowkes (regular readers of this page will be familiar with this legendary figure). I can’t immediately remember what we were discussing but something was said which earned a high-five. Both being of the larger-handed persuasion, it was one of the more satisfying high-fives of my life – full palm contact, resplendent cracking sound, no flinching or recoil. It was such a good high-five, in fact, that it attracted unwanted attention.
Some sweaty little teenage ‘fun haver’ bounded over and – having apparently identified me as the master of the high-five – held his hand aloft hoping to share in the glory. I had no interest in having skin contact with this grubby little squirt, so my hand remained at my side.
‘High five, man!’ he encouraged. ‘No’ I told him firmly but politely. ‘Why not??” he protested. ‘Because you didn’t earn one’, I told him. He lowered his hand and offered it to me for a handshake. This seemed even less appealing. I ust shook my head. ‘You won’t shake my hand?’ he spluttered. I shook my head again, slightly less politely, with a medium glare. He had been slighted in front of his friends. Were we in a more urban setting, and were he slightly less middle-class and doughy, I would no doubt have been shot. But I wasn’t. Denied the high-five and even a handshake, ‘well, what can I have?’ he whined. I told him I’d give him a half-nod of acknowledgment. He was excited by this. I raised an eyebrow and gave him the half nod. He was sated.
A couple of weeks later, two young men in cheap suits strode into my shop with clipboards under their arms. This means only one thing – they’re selling advertising for a new local magazine. We get at least 5 such marketing squads in a week. I politely always explain that we have no funds for advertising (‘well, our rates…..’ ‘is it free?’ ‘no’ ‘we have NO FUNDS FOR ADVERTISING’) Print advertising has never worked for us, neither have flyers really. It’s a waste – especially in some crappy local ‘what’s on’ guide. There is only one local whats on guide worth anything and that is the brilliant Nightshift magazine. The others come and go in one issue – if that. So, anyway, the two lads stride in, one of them announces ‘I’m Dean, this is Matt’ and offers me his hand to shake. I smile but ignore the oustretched hand. ‘We’re doing no advertising, sorry’. ‘WOW!’ he exclaims, at my seemingly supernatural ability to guess his motivations. He asked me how I knew and I explained that young men in cheap suits with clipboards called Dean don’t just swagger in in the middle of the day to rent films or buy comics. He was a stereotype all the way down to his excessive use of the word ‘mate’ and rubbish pretence at any kind of interest in the shop itself, right down to the boring anecdote about some film him and his ‘missus’ watched the other day.
I have no money for advertising, if I did, I would work out what would suit me best and then buy it. Advertising is not the kind of thing I buy on a whim. And the quickest way to alienate me is to send a young man called Dean in to waste my time by pantomiming chummy indifference for five minutes followed by a ‘tell you what, mate, why don’t I just leave a ratecard? No pressure and if you call me direct, I reckon I can even do you a decent discount! What was your name?’
People in advertising are horrible. The concept of advertising is fairly horrible in of itself, but those who proudly make a living from it are really the worst kind of cunts. Especially the ones who just waste your time. Our stationary supplier – who’s a lovely bloke – will literally stick his head round the door every couple of weeks and go ‘need anything?’ if you say no he goes ‘ok! see you next time!’ and vanishes. That is a perfect business relationship. If they just stuck their head round the door and went ‘Need to advertise in the first and likely only issue of a rubbish magazine where the articles are mere generic puff pieces punctuating 30 pages of ads for businesses you’ll never use?’ I could shout back ‘no’ or even ‘no thanks’ on a good day and they at least would have my respect. But these guys offer no respect, they think that their slimy banter is ingratiating themselves and for years I’ve played along.
A handshake is a beautiful thing. I’m a big fan of the handshake. Literally handed down from long past generations, it is a proper, respectful and decent greeting between men (yes, between men). The subtle variety of handshakes is a thing of wonder too….
The strong single movement – ‘let’s DO this!’
The double-handed clasp – sincerity and warmth
The shake with forearm clasp – sincerity and deep respect
The single hand clasp with hug – ‘my BROTHER!’
The classic – ‘so good to see you!’
The limp offering – ‘this is not a handshake, it is a wet fish, I do not trust you’
I love to shake hands. I love it! In the last two days, I’ve had two handshakes. One with Richard Ramage, the other Tim Turan – both guys who I’m thrilled to see and whose company I cherish. How do I express this to them? With a firm classic! Now, surely if I use this same firm classic on a young man called Dean who has come in and wasted my time and lied to me and whose very presence is an act of gross disrespect, then I am diminshing the glory of the shake.
We must preserve the handshake as a sincere and honest gesture. These advertisers are looking to abuse the handshake. They think by opening with a handshake before they’ve even revealed their nefarious scheme, that they have created some kind of bond. THEY ARE RAPING THE BONDS OF SHAKING. A handshake is a fine business tool, but only in a sincere situation. Had I asked them to come in and they had negotiated a good deal for me – well, then they are deserving of maybe a strong single, or at least a classic. These guys have come in specifically to try to slime money out of me. They deserve no shake. They, in fact, deserve the two-fingered anti-shake.
So I’m not shaking hands with salesmen anymore.
There is a great sense of liberation in not shaking hands with people you don’t want to shake hands with. Don’t be bullied into it. Save your handshakes only for those deserving and let those that would steal them from you have to execute the awkward remove and squirm manouevre. Give it a go!