But he is also real. Firm Handshake Guy is, in fact, one of the five or so most tedious people in American life, up there with History Channel Hiroshima Explainer (“Did you know murdering civilians saved lives, bub?”) and Guy Who Thinks Tebow Deserved More Time in Denver. What all of these people have in common is a certain kind of insistent stupidity, an in-your-face dumbness. The difference is that you can just not talk to Mssrs. Hiroshima and Tebow Defender about just war, the NFL, and kindred subjects. Firm Handshake Guy could be anywhere, and your continued membership in civilization depends upon putting up with his nonsense.

Or at least it does until we replace the handshake with an elegant Japanese-style bow. Not only would bowing allow us to avoid the very real possibility of spreading disease even in non-pandemic seasons, it would put Handshake Guy out of business forever. And it would also make us a politer, gentler, more egalitarian society. The modern bow, so far from either signaling or demanding servility, is simply polite. It is a natural extension of the nod, that humblest and most reassuring of everyday gestures. And it is extremely easy to master. Just bend your waist while keeping your back and neck more or less straight and your feet together, lower your eyes slightly, and keep your hands at your sides. (Women, if they want, can clasp their hands together instead, but it is not necessary.)