“What are you doing,” I asked in my head, “Why is this happening? How did you screw this up so badly? Now we’re here. You dragged me into this cluster of flailing limbs and personified awkwardness. This is on you. You got us into this, you need to get us out of this. Just let go. Oh no, you’re shaking our hands! Please, stop. Let go, please let go. We’re in this now. Only you can stop this. Aaaaaand RELEASE! Dammit. You’re still shaking. Is this how I die, like a half-a-ShakeWeight?”
The previous thought process went through my head during what lasted probably 30 seconds. Think I’m insane? Count out 30 seconds. It’s interminable. Lots of thoughts can get cast and rejected in that time. All of that mental anguish was over a botched high-five.
I told our CEO about some good news and he raised his hand clearly in the high-five beckoning motion. Unless you’re a stereotype of an American Indian saying “how” or doing a strange half-Hitler impression, nobody raises their hand parallel to their face, palm out, unless they’re looking for a high-five. He’s not a traffic cop stopping traffic, we were in his office. Not being a fan of the high-five, I hesitated and should have followed my instincts and just shook my head, “no.”
I went to give him a high-five, a simple palm slap and return my hand to awkwardly not know what it’s doing with itself, but when I went for the slap, he clutched my hand. He gripped my hand like a venus fly trap. I didn’t grab back I just sort of let it happen. He then started shaking my hand back and forth like, as I said, an upside down handshake. For. 30. Seconds. An interminably long time. I even broke eye contact to look at my hand and what was being done to it. Afterwards I washed my hand in the sink like Edward Norton in the showers in American History X.
The high-five is fraught with potential embarrassment and error. You’d be surprised by how many ways people can screw up a high-five, and I don’t need to deal with that kind of liability. Unless I’m dealing with an established high-five veteran–generally noted by both hands being up to maximize the high-five emotional output by doubling it–I don’t want to risk a high-five failure.
When a high-five goes awry, it means all parties involved have to stew in the error and maintain a veneer of excitement as though we’re both not living a faux pas. “Yay our team won and I am continuing to smile and be excited despite the fact that we barely connected our pinkies and now you’re holding your hand up again like you want a re-do! It’s no longer about the thrill of victory and has instead turned into your need to satiate your desire to correct a past failure. Why am I forced to right your regrets?”
There’s no way out of it either. When one of the two people involved screws up a high-five, you’re entering into a situation you willingly agreed to that then takes a twist. It was like agreeing to take the pill that frees you from the Matrix but then you get dropped into the weird dumb underground rave party. With a high-five, people act like they’re doing you a favor but they’re really just burdening you with reality of navigating their weaponized awkwardness.
The lesson here is, go with a low-five. Fist or chest bump? People goof those up all the time. No one screws up the low-five. Besides, if a girl or guy says, “my man,” it makes the low-five way more cool and fun.