I, like many other young boys, was always taught the importance of a good handshake. From ages ten to twenty, my uncle tested me at barbeques and Christmas parties, ensuring that I shook with a firm grip. It was forever being battered into me, “you want to make a good impression,” and a respectable handshake was paramount to that.
These days, I’ve got the visual impression down to a science. In professional settings, I’m always on point with my outfits; coordinated, pressed and trying to distinguish myself from the other men in the room. When I worked at Long & McQuade, I became very aware of how “men” do business. None of them were anything to write home about in the style department (at work anyways) but, they all showed up in a shirt and tie. The man who has been training me at work now is the same way, though he is quite a bit more fashionable then the guitar salesmen were. Regardless of the dress though, because I’ve seen electronics salesmen in polo shirts behave the same way--there’s always a handshake involved.
The older guys that kind of took me under their wings at L&M did me a huge favour by breaking it down for me. They just explained the respect in a way I seemed to listen to, though the words were the same as my uncles’. I got into a habit of shaking the hands of the people I was taking money from, further ensuring them that I wasn’t just some slimy guy robbing people. I’ve never worked a commission job in my life, and to be honest, I hope I never have to. There’s just something about the entire structure that just disagrees with my being. No matter where I’ve worked, I don’t sell, I help people buy. I never suggest things that people don’t need, but I am willing to show something off that I believe a person will appreciate. I think the approach I’ve taken, the industry I’ve landed in, and most of all, the handshakes I give do me a huge service in projecting my integrity.
I worked with a man who taught me to shake a woman’s hand in the exact same manner that you’d shake a man’s; this has done wonders for me. In my current job, I tend to deal with a lot of couples. Grande Prairie is notorious for terrible service in just about anything you can call a service job and then some, but it seems twice as bad for women. At restaurants, if they don’t work there, they may as well be ghosts. I’ve heard at least half of the women I work with talk about being nearly ignored by their server in favour of the men at the table. That kills me, and every time I see it (which is every time I’m out), I die just a little bit more. The thing that really drives the steak into my heart, is when I’m handed the bill every single time. Like, bitch, you don’t think a handsome boi like me gets taken out? I love nothing more than beautiful people buying my meals for me, and I always make a point of saying while the server is present, “thanks for everything, dear.” As if I’m trying to set some sort of precedent in this server’s mind that, yes, in this town, women are capable of treating men to things.
I got off on a little tangent there… anyways, what I’m trying to get at is that I’ve found myself overcompensating for this lack of service at work. I’ve noticed that I am noticeably warmer, friendlier and more helpful to pretty much anyone who isn’t a white male, ages eighteen to fifty. The rest of the world can cater to those guys—I’m gonna handle people who get looked through. I’m going to make life easy for you in this moment, in anyway I can. The nice part about my job though, and also the double-edged blade, is that what we do is directly tied to quality of life. One easy process can lead to something good for people going forward in their lives.
All of this started with learning how to shake hands. Now, I try to shake everyone’s hand, and in that, I see what all those men in my life were trying to get me to see—the importance of a good handshake. When my grip is matched and there’s one good solid shake from the elbow, an instant bond is formed, and even if there’s not, the human connection is real. I wouldn't trade it for the world.
See you tomorrow.
Writer, performer, producer and musician from Alberta.