Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Louisiana handshake

It's time to be introduced to another social custom here. The Louisiana handshake.
The Louisiana handshake is something like this: extend your index finger and thumb to grasp the tip of the other person's index finger for a nanosecond. Make sure your facial expression shows your opinion that you are thoroughly disgusted during that moment- but conceal your disgust with an insincere smile. Drop the other person's index finger and pull back your arm. In other words, the Louisiana handshake- so called because i have never encountered it before-is the handshake for people who don't want to shake hands. Ladies of a certain class-the ones Evita Peron railed about- are experts in this. It's fascinating because it conveys so much so quickly. Disgust, distance, reluctance and an air of unjustified superiority can all be felt. Sometimes, this handshake is accompanied by speech that indicates that the speaker considers you to be a fairly dimwitted two year old. When Chris Tucker first meets Jackie Chan at the airport in Rush Hour and says "do you understand a word that is coming out of my mouth?" he is providing a window into my daily life here. Except that the people who say this to me look nothing like him. And he really shouldn't go where they live.

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