STROBEL: COVID-19 — we'll shake it off

First Lady Melania Trump stands by as President Donald Trump shakes hands with Queen Elizabeth during the U.S. presidents trip to the U.K. on July 13, 2018. (AFP via Getty Images)

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KAGAWONG, Ont. -‑ When this is over, you will poke your head out of your foxhole and say, “well, it’s not all bad.”

Silver linings will become clearer to us when the chaos and dread of COVID-19 wane.

An obvious one: You and yours will be alive and well -‑ touch wood and wash your hands ‑- which is more than will be said for thousands of your fellow earthlings.

Also, you’ll have reconnected with your household — “we have a cat?!” —  in ways not possible when you were at work all day.

Some self-isolationists will have relearned their kids’ names, or finally fixed that gaping hole in the roof, or deciphered the dials on the washing machine.

When the all-clear is given, I hope you do not kiss the kids and the cat goodbye and disappear back to the office until the next armageddon.

Sadly, shock wears off and old habits return. A few months after 9/11, we all climbed back on airplanes and crammed ridiculously bulky “carry-on” luggage into overhead bins.

But we can always hope. Meantime, other good things will come of COVID-19, as unlikely as that seems right now.

The demise of the handshake, for instance, is long overdue. History has never witnessed a more disgusting and dangerous interaction between humans, besides murder.

For the ancient Greeks and medieval knights, clasping hands in greeting proved you were not carrying a shiv.

In the 21st century, a shiv is unlikely, unless you’re in maximum security, but we still shake. It’s silly.

Shaking hands vigorously, as many of us do to excess, was meant to loosen any dagger or blunderbuss hidden up your sleeves.

Of course, nothing prevented a clever killer from stabbing or shooting with his other hand, as did William McKinley’s assassin while the U.S. president was pressing the flesh in Buffalo in 1901.

Usually, though, handshakes kill more subtly.

Think about this: In our lifetime, we shake 15,000 hands. Sweaty, greasy, grimy ones, unless they belong to the 5% of people who wash them properly.

Yes, just 5%. For the rest, who knows what orifice those fingers have been in, or what toilet, garbage bin, or raw chicken? What nostril or teeth have they picked? What ungodly horror did that hand grasp before you shook it.?

I have walked among the mighty Maasai of Kenya, who spit on their palms as a show of respect before shaking hands. Did they also just remodel their cow-dung hut?

Other cultures, including ours, are as bad. In some cases, especially when drinking heavily or greeting royalty or popes, we not only shake the hand, but bend down and kiss it.

Fist bumps aren’t much better. How do you know where those knuckles have been? (Kissing ass can’t be healthy, either, but not even a nuclear holocaust will end that.)

From now on, cut it out. Post COVID-19, I hope, we will all bow like the Japanese, or do the namaste like in India – Justin will dance with joy ‑ or adopt some other form of non-contact hello.

Maybe we will just say hello. Maybe we will do it while two metres apart.

That’s another positive outcome of the pandemic. Social distancing. It’s a good habit to keep.

We became far too touchy-feely in recent generations, since the 1960s really. We hug, clap each other on the shoulder, rub the tops of each other’s head, get in each other’s face and generally invade personal space at will.

Deep down, it makes us uncomfortable, though most never admit it. As we’ve now learned, it’s hazardous.


Up here on Manitoulin Island, even the wolves, bears and liberals are keeping at least two metres away from me, which is safer for all.

Social distancing will be hard to maintain long-term. You could give yourself whiplash trying to stay two metres from everybody in Dundas Square when it gets busy again.

All those scary home-made haircuts will help, until they grow out. If at least some respect for private space persists post-apocalypse, we’ll be better for it. I promise.

But let’s not shake on it.