How to React to Someone Waiting to Shake Your Moist Hands

Steve is finishing up in the bathroom. He’s washing his hands and giving himself a look-over in the mirror before heading back to his desk. That morning coffee seemed to get things moving quicker than usual. Steve washes thoroughly with soap and water, and dries his hands with paper towels.

Bathroom areas in the workplace are no doubt a popular place for people to congregate. Bathrooms are often adjacent to break rooms, water coolers, and coffee machines, and therefore many people tend to linger around the area. And this time is no different.

As he leaves the bathroom, he sees one of the company’s partners walk through. It’s Marty, who’s in town from Denver. “Steve my man, how’s it going?” Marty asks emphatically as he approaches Steve. Marty puts his right hand out for a hearty handshake. Steve at first is smiling and ready go shake back, but just as soon he realizes his hand is still moist from his recent washing.

While it’s true that Steve used paper towels to dry his wet hands, it’s extremely common to be unable to dry one’s hands fully. Rubbing the hands vigorously with three entire paper towels may not even be enough to get every last drip of water off the palms. It could take an additional two minutes of air drying to get the hands to a state where one would feel comfortable engaging in the intimate practice of handshaking. So naturally, Steve has some last-second second thoughts about shaking Marty’s hand.

If the two were to shake hands and Marty were to feel Steve’s wetness, what might he think? “Oh gross, this perv probably just went to the bathroom and pissed all over his hands and didn’t wash them!” Well, that’s one possibility. The more likely scenario is Marty realizes Steve has washed his hands, but this simply indicates that they warranted washing, because moments earlier he must have been wiping his dirty butt. Whatever business the two had planned for the day just went directly downhill.

What can Steve do in the next two seconds to avoid holding out his wet hand and shaking Marty’s firm dry hand?

  • Steve can simply take the two seconds to wipe his hand on his pants and hope to remove even more moisture before contact. It may still be damp, but not as noticeably so.
  • Steve can bypass the hand-shake and go straight for a bro hug, involving a slight lean toward Marty and a pat on the back.
  • Steve could likewise choose to form a fist with his wet dominant hand and give Marty a very bro-like fist bump.
  • Steve can put his hand in his pocket and grab his phone at the last moment, thereby avoiding the handshake, but it will look odd and make Marty sad that Steve is avoiding contact,
  • Steve could hold out his hand to shake Marty’s, but at the last moment pull it away and swipe his hair and say “too slow!” in a joking fashion, and then proceed to laugh it off.
  • Steve could be honest and say “oh, shit, I just washed my hands, sorry for the moistness” and continue to shake Marty’s hand as planned.
  • If Steve and Marty are really tight, Steve could also be really gross and come up with some sort of sick reason why his hands are wet. Perhaps some story involving Marty’s mom would suffice. “Yeah, you like that wet handshake? Your mom was in the bathroom and I know how she likes it! Hahahahahahahahah!!!!”
  • Or Steve could ignore the whole thing and just say hi, or nothing at all.

In the end, though, most people will simply continue on with the handshake like nothing is wrong. So what if your hand is a little damp? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to come to the conclusion that it was recently washed! And washing hands is sanitary. If anything, Marty should be skeptical of a dry hand—one that hand’t recently been washed.

Products to Get Your Moist Hands Dry

My Hot Take:
This topic was suggested to me by a former co-worker named Randy, and I told him that this literally happens to me once per week. I come out of the bathroom with not-fully-dry hands and lo and behold, some chum is standing right there waiting to shake my hand. The last time this happened, I did the pant wipe followed by fist bump. The time before, I strangely opted to just not shake at all and ignore his hand out, but instead just exchange pleasantries.

If you leave the bathroom with hands that aren’t fully dry and someone is standing there waiting to shake your hand, you may wish to avoid it by doing a fist bump or rubbing your moist hands on your pants.

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