The other day I went to an event where most people had friends and I knew no one. I cleverly disguised this, however, because it’s hard to meet people when you start out by saying, “I came alone.” I immediately got in line for something, because lines are by far the best places to mingle. The guests are trapped, subject to any conversation topic you might bring up, just waiting to be entertained. It’s perfect.
After hanging around in lines, I ended up leaving the party and getting a drink with a group of new friends, failing to get all of their numbers with one exception, and resigning myself to the fact I’ll never see any of them again. It was a valuable experience, and I learned two things. One is that wearing a piece of crazy clothing makes it easier for people to remember you, especially if it’s a cape that allows you to blend in with walls and then scare them. And the other, more important thing I learned is that you shouldn’t look while you shake hands with someone, no matter how weird or uncomfortable it is.
Here’s what happened. As I and my group of new never-to-be-heard-from-again-techie friends were leaving, I went to give handshakes all around. I “put ‘er there” to a young man who is beginning his job at a well known Bay Area start-up that has revolutionized how we interact (hint), and as I gripped firmly I noticed that something had gone horribly wrong with the handshake. I felt pressure, but only on the outer rim of my palm. It was like his hand was hollow or weak muscled on the interior. Puzzled, I took a peek to find out what was happening.
This was weird. I had no idea that staring at handshakes is unusual until I was doing it, and it was weird. Immediately, the soft techie geek took notice and asked me what I was doing, to which I quickly replied, “Nothing.” And he said, “You were looking at the handshake,” an accusation I dodged by saying, “No I didn’t.” Seconds later, I walked away with two strange nerds and never saw any of them again, yet.
A fedora-wearing-boy who was possibly still in high school accompanied me back to the train station with a man who builds inflatable robots at work. I told the fedora I would text him about contra dancing and he seemed rightly skeptical.
As I got on the train heading home, I thought that maybe not getting any of their real information except for fedora’s was for the best. And after all, it is San Francisco, and I’ll probably find people just like them at the next nerdy event I attend. This is my ocean and I’m on the lookout for bigger fish to cling to and shake hands with properly.
*The term handshakefulness is not my own. It was created by the 30 Rock writing staff.