Benny Jay: Pandemic Policy

June 19th, 2021

Had one of those Ann Landers moments the other night, when I desperately needed someone to give me instantaneous advice to help me figure out an uncomfortable moment of uncertainty. I’ll set the scene. . .

We’re having a lovely night with old friends, watching basketball and eating pizza. At the end, one guy, heading for the door, turns to me and says, “Great seeing you.” Then he sticks out his hand as if to shake.

There and then I had a decision to make. Do I take the shake—or do I pass?

Confession time. . .

One of my favorite parts of the pandemic—not that there was a lot of competition—was that it temporarily halted the ritual of shaking hands..

More confessions. . . 

I never liked the ritual of shaking hands. It’s because, oh, one last confession. . . 

I’m a bit of a germaphobe. A guy sticks out his hand and I wonder, Where has it been, and has he washed it since it’s been there?

It’s like that classic scene in Jackie Brown, the great Pam Grier movie. Where Max Cherry, the Robert Forster character, exits the bathroom to find Ordell Robbie, the Samuel L. Jackson character, sitting in his office.

Here’s how it reads in Quentin Tarantino’s script:

The bathroom door in Max’s office. We hear a toilet flush behind it. The door opens, and Max Cherry emerges, zipping up his pants, with a TV Guide in his hand. He looks up and stops dead. Ordell’s sitting oh-so-comfortably in the chair in front of Max’s desk.

Ordell: Unh. . . unh. . . unh. . . I didn’t hear you wash your hands.


I know I shouldn’t be associating with the psychopath in the movie, but in that scene, I knew exactly where Ordell was coming from. Even though he was, as I said, very much a psychopath.

Another example. . . 

Years ago. I’m walking Nicky, my dog. And we’re passing this babysitter and a five-year-old girl. And the girl’s got her finger in her nose. I mean—way up her nose.

And as Nicky and I approach, the kid takes her finger out of her nose and heads straight for my dog.

And the babysitter says something like, ”Oh, so sweet, can she pet your dog?”

Oh, folks, what to do? I didn’t want to be the mean old guy in the neighborhood. But I didn’t want that stuff from that girl’s nose on Nicky’s head.

So I told a little fib. I said, “Ugh, my dog’s not really that good with little kids.” And then I just hustled down the street.

Anyway, so what did I do when my friend extended his hand? I shook it. That’s what I did.

But then I dashed to the nearest sink to wash it. Next time, I’m going with the fist bump. Might as well take something good from the pandemic.

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