Sunday, April 11, 2021
April 11, 2021

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Out of ideas for physically distanced greetings? We’ve got a few

By , Columbian Arts & Features Reporter
3 Photos
The late Leonard  Nimoy flashes the Vulcan Salute as he arrives for a "Star Trek" movie premiere on May 14, 2013, in Los Angeles.
The late Leonard Nimoy flashes the Vulcan Salute as he arrives for a "Star Trek" movie premiere on May 14, 2013, in Los Angeles. (Associated Press files) Photo Gallery

The simplest human joy of all — the joy of meeting and greeting other humans — has gotten pretty complicated these days thanks to the highly contagious coronavirus. Outside-your-household handshakes, hugs and even friendly slaps on the back are out. The European style of kissing both cheeks? Fuhgeddaboudit.

We may be truly thrilled to see friends, or determined to make firm impressions on new business associates, but distance rules the day. How can you extend the appropriate hello while maintaining lots of breathing room?

Maybe viewing it as a matter of local pride will boost morale and help us stay focused on safety as this tough situation drags on. So try waving your Van Hands, which are so much cooler (that is, ‘Couver) than normal Jazz Hands. Or try the Burnt Bridge Bow, honoring the city’s main waterway.

Ever notice how your crooked elbow forms a proud capital V? We envision a Van Bump, performed only by people who are masked up and stepping quickly forward to touch the points of those Vs, and away again.

Cute, but public health officials don’t recommend elbow bumping because that still involves both real physical contact and merging your airspace. Better to perform the physically distanced version from at least 6 feet away: the Pan(demic) Van Bump.

The same goes for the Toe Bump, also known as the Wuhan Shake, which may seem safer because it involves no hand contact but still brings people’s mouths and noses too close together. The mighty Fist Bump, alas, is a definite violation of both principles: no contact, no sharing airspace.

In a culture that’s grown markedly informal, some people don’t feel the need for any particular demonstration of greetings.

“I say hi. That’s all that’s needed,” Jeremi Smith wrote on The Columbian’s Facebook page when we asked what readers are trying.

“Well I’ve never really hugged people nor shook hands so I am all good,” added Allison Bell.

If you’re old-fashioned enough to feel that some form of greeting is always required, the following guide is for you. Some are classics of world history, others come from pop culture — and a few swirl those together into something playful for a time that’s anything but.

Namaste and gasshō

If you’ve ever tried yoga, you probably ended the session with a group bow from the waist with hands pressed prayerfully together while your instructor intoned the word “namaste.”

“Namaste” is a traditional, respectful, noncontact form of greeting in the Hindu world. The original Sanskrit meaning is simply “I bow to you” or “I honor you.” Cosmic elaborations — “The divine within me salutes the divine within you” — appear to have come with the arrival of modern yoga as a form of calisthenics flavored with quasi-spiritual sauce.

John Kowalski of Vancouver has been performing a Japanese-Buddhist version of the prayerful greeting bow for decades. Influenced by Japanese culture and his own philosophical leanings, he became a Buddhist in the 1980s, he said.

“It’s not out of character or even that unusual for me to greet folks with the traditional ‘palms together’ (gasshō in Japanese) greeting, along with a slight bow,” he said.

Vulcan salute

“Live long and prosper” seems a truly on-point greeting for an era dominated by a deadly virus and a massive economic downturn. The fact that it’s the motto of an extraterrestrial civilization that adopted cool logic after ravaging itself with hatred and violence seems pretty on-point too.

The phrase and the accompanying hand gesture both come to us across the final frontier from planet Vulcan, the home of “Star Trek’s” Mr. Spock, where pointy-eared people greet one another by raising one hand, displaying the palm and separating the thumb, middle and ring fingers. (There, it’s another V. Sort of.)

The gesture was invented by Mr. Spock himself, actor Leonard Nimoy, who drew inspiration from the Jewish Priestly Blessing that impressed him as a child. The Vulcan Salute was reportedly recommended to members of Congress by an attending physician last spring, but it didn’t take. (Even if they did it, would they really mean it?)


When you and your friend used to slap palms together in pre-pandemic fashion, that was a High Five. When you make the gesture from 6 feet apart and without contact, it’s an Air Five.

(And when Vulcans make their special gesture from across the light years? Let’s call it a Space Five.)

Hand on heart

It’s good enough for our pledge to the flag and it’s also good enough for Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization, who suggested this instead of elbow bumping as the pandemic took hold earlier this year. Tedros likes showing respect and sincerity by putting a hand over his heart.

“Hand on heart and a slight head bow,” Samantha Meyer agreed on Facebook.

Embrace the air

Here’s one that’s probably not for greeting business associates but definitely for family and good friends: ” ‘Air hug’ where you make the motions of a hug from a distance,” said Linda Jellison.

Some prefer wrapping their arms around themselves in a warm, sincere demonstration. Others enjoy indulging in a staggering-zombie squeeze that tells their besties how they really feel: I love you so much, I’d eat your brains if only Dr. Fauci let me!

Finger pistols

On the other hand, even a comedic mock-shooting doesn’t necessarily seem like the nicest greeting. But it’s probably welcomed warmly by some. Stick up for your constitutional right to bear digits with a little pretend bang-bang. Add a wink so your friend knows it’s meant with love.

Faux-blowing kisses

Kissing your palm and then powering the result over to your sweetie with a burst of breath – what’s wrong with this picture? The breath, of course. Make the gesture but refrain from pushing out any air. Make it a breathless, exaggerated faux-blow.

Cool nod

Just a flick of the head in casual acknowledgment. No need to get too excited. Yo, bruh, down for some distanced chillaxin’? Dope.

“I find a small head bow to be nice,” said Rebecca Bristow. “Simple and elegant.”

Peace sign

At a time like this, in all seriousness: What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?


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