Thursday, March 26, 2020

101 Things #81 - Slapping Those Hands

There are bucket-list ideas that are highly specific and need effort to achieve - such as running a marathon. There are ideas that are a little woollier but still have a reasonable rationale - such as befriending an older person. And there are those really daft notions that are probably included to make up the numbers for those trying to find 101 things to do before they die and are stuck after listing the first 63. This piece examines one of these. It was suggested on the website Get Off The Couch .

I'm off the couch, thank you, and have no intention whatsoever to

Spend a day giving high fives to everyone you see.*

What I shall do instead is to add this to my still-growing, now four score in number, series 101 Things I Refuse To Do Before I Die.

There were no high fives when I was young. Indeed, there were none for much of my adulthood. Stealthily, without fanfare, this form of social interaction has become acceptable and commonplace. This article, A Brief History of the High Five by Jessica Bloustein Marshall, seems fairly helpful in establishing how the high five become enmeshed within our culture.

If the high five has a value, it is to celebrate a worthwhile achievement. A cricketer scoring successive sixes perhaps or a sales manager acknowledging a new monthly sales record. It should be used sparingly so as to have a real meaning. But we find people high-fiving on the least pretext, and now, here is the ultimate expression of pointlessness, the idea that somehow you will have achieved something memorable if you do it all the time with everyone you meet during a day.

I wonder what the good folk of beautiful Ruislip would think were I to stroll down High Street extending my hand and waving it in the face of all who pass. The young mother with a child on one arm and pushing a pram with the other - will she gladly let go of one to rap my knuckles? The elderly couple moving slowly toward the supermarket, the traffic warden with his beady eye on a Range Rover, the group of teenagers engrossed with their phones - will any of these extend a hand to share a moment with me? Do I dare start high-fiving a couple of schoolgirls or will I instantly face a charge of sexual harassment?

I suppose one could try simply offering a high five to all-comers. This way only volunteers would be involved. But clearly this would not achieve the objective of "giving" high fives so must be disregarded. As to "a day" - what on earth does our couch-bound advisor do all day that makes this sort of activity worthwhile? Presumably he does not drive a taxi or a train; he is unlikely to be a policeman or a coastguard. A scientist carefully carrying radioactive fluids in a testtube is not, I venture, going to risk dropping it and melting his shoes just because a grinning colleague is sticking out a paw to be rapped. And as to the man at the controls of the crane on the building site, making minute adjustments to the five ton load being swung high out over the street - best left well alone, I dare say.

In any case merely looking at a stranger is more social interaction than most of us care to do, and in the wrong neighbourhood, can be positively dangerous. Even in the right neighbourhood there is likely to be a far amount of sideways glances, averted gazes and possibly crossing of the street when an enthusiastic high-fiver is spotted. I must admit that were I to encounter someone doing this, I would be narrowing my gaze, ensuring my wallet was safely buttoned up and putting a hand on my portable umbrella (always useful as an emergency club) just in case. And by extension, if others feel the same way then who am I to put them under such pressure?


* This article was, of course, written some time before the present medical emergency.

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