Tuesday, January 7, 2014

"Going Off-Script: 'No offense, but...'"

Having just gone down to the sixth floor via the stairway, I noticed an interesting element of the building on the ceiling and took a few pictures of it.  Turning around, I then ran into a loose acquaintance from another country.  He called out a friendly greeting and extended his hand.  All according to a script and visual flow of images you've seen... what? - thousands of times? - tens of thousands of times?

And so the automatic social gears in your imagination kick in and you are probably already imagining me reaching out my hand and shaking the man's hand with a big smile on my face - which is what I usually do, but not always (especially when I'm using my camera, as I was at the time), and not this time.  I went off auto-script and left my hand (with my camera in it) by my side - explaining that I never touch my camera if there is oil on my hands, and since I was in the middle of taking pictures, I would prefer - as I generally do at such times - not to shake hands.

Mind you, there's no antisocial element to this, it's simply a matter of washing my hands - with soap - before using my camera so I don't get sweat/oil/whatever on the camera.  Unfortunately, it's been my experience that - more often than not - when I shake hands with someone, I come away from the encounter with extra oil on my hand, which is irritating anyway, and especially when I'm using a machine that I want to keep clean.  I wasn't accusing him of having dirty hands, but the usual outcome of making (for what bloody purpose?) physical hand-to-hand contact with people out in public is me ending up with an oily right hand that I then need to wash before I can resume taking pictures.  I didn't have the time at the moment to go off in search of soap and water, and I thought I could explain the issue to the man.

Unfortunately, my acquaintance from another country appeared to take this as a personal insult.  He muttered something at me in a language I don't understand and walked off - looking rather unhappy about the exchange.  No offense intended on my part, but apparently taken by him - and now also by me, since the muttered word he used didn't appear to be a friendly one.  The dangers of going off-script....

Anyway - for the record, I really hate the custom of shaking hands.  Bowing is - I believe - a much more civilized way to greet people.


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