DEAR MISS MANNERS: Before the pandemic, I never avoided shaking hands. But now, even though I’m fully vaccinated, I shudder at the thought.
Last week, I attended a student career fair where everyone wore masks. It was the first one I attended in a year and a half.
I did not even think of handshakes until the students started coming up to me with outstretched hands. I couldn’t help but reciprocate and grabbed their sometimes damp, limp hands to get a quick pump or two. My brain screamed “no!” while my social reflexes took over.
Two days later I came down with a runny nose and sore throat. Fortunately, after getting a negative COVID test, it was clear that I only had a cold.
Would there have been any way I could have greeted them warmly while apologizing in a pleasant way for shaking hands? (Do not think I did not wash my hands thoroughly and used rubbing alcohol as soon as possible afterwards!)
I also wonder how I will react when I meet again with clients and industry colleagues for upcoming meetings. Is there any graceful way to handle this?
HAPPY READER: Start reaching out, stop, look like you just remembered something, and then convert your movement to the elbow bulge that is now becoming common. You can further alleviate the implied rejection by shrugging and asking as if you did not know, “Is that what we are going to do now?”
Miss Manners realizes that this will not satisfy those who, unlike yourself, enjoy educating their colleagues about pandemic security more if it involves public shaming. She just notices that the latter does not work.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: On a trip to our local library, I used my elbow to activate the front door by pressing the handicap button on the side. I did this to avoid touching the door handle.
My 7 year old daughter said she thought it was inappropriate for me to use the button as I am not disabled.
I started explaining why it was acceptable for everyone to use the button – unlike parking in a handicap zone, it is not illegal to use the entrance button – but then I thought to myself. I started to wonder if my daughter was right: Just because the button is there, does not mean a non-disabled person should use it.
What do you say?
HAPPY READER: Your 7-year-old has perfectly captured the spirit of the moment. Correcting mistakes – and there is always more than enough to choose from – is virtuous, albeit sometimes humorless. But it’s not inventing transgressions just to put people wrong.
Your use of the button was not a violation as it did not harm anyone. And if someone is drawing a parallel to the disabled parking lot by saying it was not used, Miss Manners replies that you who are not 7 years old know the difference.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners on her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or by mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.