'Matter of Laugh or Death,' the award-winning humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
A few weeks ago I discussed the problem of shaking hands with other people during the cold and flu season. I made a few light-hearted comments about awkward situations in my sales job, where Iím expected to shake hands throughout the day with customers.
Based on the email messages Iíve received since that column appeared, I want to clear up some misunderstandings. First, I wasnít serious when I suggested that a good way to get the other person to stop thinking about proper handshaking etiquette is to sneeze directly into his face from two feet away. Since many of my customers are N.R.A. members, if I actually did that, Iíd quickly have something more serious to worry about than a bad cold. For example, a ventilated liver.
Also, since I recently discovered my boss reads this column, I want to point out that of course I was only kidding when I said salesmen with colds should tell their bosses theyíre out making sales calls but really stay home and watch ďThe Price is Right.Ē (Obviously I wasnít serious. I mean, why watch Bob Barker when Channel 96 has highlights of the 1975 World Series?)
By far the most passionate replies came from people who took exception to my comments about shaking hands during the ďSign of PeaceĒ at Sunday Mass. Apparently this issue is a real sore point for many folks. In my defense, Iíd like to offer explanations to some of these email writers.
■ To firstname.lastname@example.org: Iím very sorry to hear that your mom died in 1981 from the flu, an illness you now realize she contracted from me during Sunday Mass. But Iím pretty sure I am not the culprit because I never visited your momís parish in Nebraska, and now that I think about it, I didnít visit any parish back in 1981.
■ To email@example.com: Iím very sorry to hear that the church has gone to hell in a handbasket ever since people got so ďtouchy-feelyĒ in the 1960s. But Iím pretty sure I am not responsible for the changes of Vatican IIóparticularly, as you describe it, the ďblankety-blank shaking hands thingĒóbecause I didnít have the opportunity to be a Catholic bishop in Rome back in 1965 since I was preoccupied at the time being a third grader in Connecticut.
■ To firstname.lastname@example.org: Iím very sorry to hear that everything makes you ill. But Iím pretty sure I am not purposely trying to kill you. However, from the tone of your email message, if I got to know you a little better I could be persuaded to change my mind.
■ To email@example.com: Iím very sorry to hear that your neighbor ran over your cat with his car. But Iím pretty sure itís not a good idea for me to attend your church just so I can shake your neighborís hand and give him the flu so he can, as you describe it, ďdie a slow, painful, agonizing deathójust like poor Fluffy.Ē Besides, I donít have the flu right now.
■ To firstname.lastname@example.org: Iím very sorry to hear that you came down with the flu soon after reading my column in the newspaper. But Iím pretty sure neither I nor any newspaper employee purposely applied flu virus germs onto the right side of page 8B of your copy of the paper. (I canít speak for page 4C, however. You know those wacky Sports Department guys.)
■ To email@example.com: Iím very sorry to hear that you hate to go to church because of the ďSign of Peace.Ē But Iím pretty sure ďThou shalt not shake handsĒ is not one of the Ten Commandments, and I donít think Jesus ever said, ďPeace is stupid.Ē
■ To firstname.lastname@example.org: Iím very sorry to hear that people have been complaining to you for over twenty years about how much they hate to shake hands during Mass. Iím pretty sure you have more important things to worry about, but Iím about to forward a pile of angry emails to you. Good luck.
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