Please Don’t Shake My Hand for the Next Month

I’m sick of sick people.

Have you noticed the number of people with the flu, or flu symptoms, or an upper-respiratory infection?

Unfortunately it is the time of year when America succumbs to the current illness bug, and millions of people will be coughing and sputtering and sneezing.

The people who get flu shots may be immune from some of this, but they may also fall victim perhaps with a milder condition. Go figure!

Hospitals report an overflow of flu victims and in many cases have limited the number of visitors. It has become a full-blown epidemic in some parts of the country and people are dying.

The Center For Disease Control (CDC) has announced that all States except Hawaii are at record levels with flu patients.

What disturbs me, though, is that we still adhere to an arcane practice at this time of the year in some church services that promote the passing of these diseases to unsuspecting parishioners.

In the Catholic Church, for instance, we have what is referred to as the “kiss of peace,” also known as Pax, which is the mutual greeting of the faithful during Mass as a sign of their union with Christ.

Some people merely shake hands, while others engage in hugging and kissing. Although I understand the significance of the act, I think that during flu season this practice should be abandoned and some Catholic Dioceses are allowing the temporary discontinuation of the practice.

Many are opting for a nice smile to convey one’s feelings to others which I think should become more widespread.

Currently I am coming out of the throes of a severe cold and cough. During that time I did not engage in any handshakes while at church. Heck, I barely left the house. So I had the courtesy to not inflict my disease on others, and frankly I expect the same of others if they are sick.

I’m also disturbed during Mass when the Eucharistic ministers dispense communion after they‘ve shaken hands with others.

Each time I take communion and they give me a wafer, which I will digest, I fervently hope it doesn’t contain any viral ingredients. If I sound like a germaphobe, so be it!

But what about interacting with employees at work? If you are in a work environment, there are certain practices to minimize the chance of contracting the flu.

How about avoiding the use of a common copy machine? Those coffee mugs in the break area probably did not get a thorough washing, so bring your own cup. Be aware of objects that others who may be ill have touched, such as door knobs, the microwave key pad, light switches, and handles—on everything from faucets to refrigerators.

If you travel for business, you may want to avoid the shared computers in hotel business offices. Of course the items in your room, such as the TV remote and the phone, are likely candidates for flu bugs, so perhaps packing a disinfectant in your luggage would be appropriate.

I suspect that renowned germaphobe Howie Mandel could add to this list, and if you are a Seinfeld fan, there is a whole episode devoted to germaphobes — “The Apology.”

So here are my admonitions:

• If you are coughing and sputtering and either have the flu or flu symptoms, stay home.

• If you decide to attend church services and are sick, consider sitting in the back rows away from everyone.

Candidly, I think the Good Lord will give you a pass during your illness, so once again, stay home.

• If you go to work with these symptoms, don’t expect anyone to greet you with a smile.

• And if you encounter me at church or in public, don’t expect me to shake your hand.

Just wait for my engaging smile.

Bill Kalmar

Lake Orion


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