You Can Shake On It!

It was a month ago, and I can still feel Tracy’s hand against mine. Actually I can still feel her limp fingers brushing up against the tips of mine in the creepiest handshake ever. Ewwwww.

*     *     *

I didn’t do it to be a jerk, although I absolutely was. I just thought it was funny.

You see, I had a neighbor when I was growing up who gave me the secret to success.  Repeatedly.  Captain Leavitt would explain to me, again and again, the proper way to shake hands.

“Leasie!” he’d say. “You gotta understand this!  It’s the key to success. You’ve got to know how to shake hands properly if you want to make something of yourself.”

Captain Levitt * actually knew what he was talking about. Because he had gone from being a poor kid in Brooklyn – a high school dropout – into the owner of a posh string of shops (Custom Shop Shirtmakers) that sold, well, custom made shirts. By the time I knew him in the 1960s and early 70s, he was a millionaire several times over. He lived in New York City, but he had a weekend house down the road from mine.

He never failed to stop when he saw me to teach me the secret of success.

And I never failed to do it wrong, each and every time.

“Leasie!” he’d say, in his thick Brooklyn accent. “No, no, no!  You’re not doing it right!”

Google Image. What a smile he had!

Google Image.
What a smile he had!

He must have thought I was a moron. I’m sure he recalled the 4,396 times he’d already taught me just how to shake hands.

“You need to pay attention, Leasie!” he’d say, reaching his hand out to shake mine.

Of course I’d do it wrong.  Just so he could show me again.

“Now reach your whole hand towards mine – put the webbed part between your thumb and pointer right up against the webbed bit of mine. Wrap your fingers around mine and grasp it firmly – firmly but not too hard. Then shake it twice — three times is OK. Four times? That’s too many.”

Each time, I was a good student. By the time he walked or drove away, I was shaking his hand properly.

The next time? I’d screw it up again, just so he’d teach me again. I’m pretty sure that he thought I would likely need a lot more than a firm handshake to become successful. But Captain Levitt did what he could for me.

*     *     *

Now back to Tracy.

John and I are looking to replace my car, so I went into a car dealer one Sunday afternoon, sans husband. It’ll be my car, so I want to figure out what car I like before John insists I buy something else. So there I was, by myself in the car dealer. s

As I sat in a car that was conveniently $10K over budget, a voice came from nowhere.

“hello” it whispered.

A woman’s voice. It seemed to have no body attached to it. When I eventually saw the body that went with the disembodied voice, I quickly figured out the problem. She was hiding in my blind spot.

“I’m Elyse,” I said, reaching out to shake her hand.

“I’m Tracy,” she said in a whiny, barely audible voice.  And she grabbed the very bottoms of my fingers in her cold hand and massaged them.  Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.

Tracy tapped into my inner Captain Levitt. I forgot about the car, and could think of nothing except how to pass on Captain Levitt’s lesson to Tracy.  After a good handwashing, that is.

But that’s harder to give words of wisdom than you’d think, you know. Tracy is an adult! And you can’t just go around teaching adults things, you know. They don’t appreciate it.

Besides, I didn’t like Tracy. At all. The fact that she had previously been a disembodied voice AND that she shook hands like a limp lobster was only part of it. She was really creepy, like that person in the horror movie who nobody notices until she picks up the axe.

More importantly, she wasn’t helpful at all.

What on earth was she doing selling cars? It was like the car dealership version of a reality show where the contestants are assessed for the job they would be worst at. And somehow, I was written into the pilot.

Tracy couldn’t answer any of my questions about the car. She didn’t care about cars, in fact. I’m not even sure if she had driven one ever before. She explained to me that she was really a fashion designer.

“Well, you’ll look great when you get on Top Gear!” I said to her, the only nice fashion/car thing I could think to say.

“What’s Top Gear?” she asked.


So Tracy came with me on the test drive of one car she didn’t know the first thing about.

While she went to get the keys to a second car I wanted to drive, I decided. I had to do it.  Yes, I steeled myself to teach Tracy how to shake hands properly. I was pretty sure that some day, her next meal might just depend on it.  The entire future of this pathetic woman might actually depend on ME.  I couldn’t stand the pressure.

Because as Captain Levitt told me many, many times, “The key to success is in a good, firm handshake.”

I waited for Tracy to come back, trying to figure out just how to break the news to her. That her wimpy handshake was a problem in sales. In other jobs.  Hell, a shitty handshake was a problem in life itself.

So I decided to tell her about Captain Levitt, the rags to riches story of a very successful man.  And to teach her what he had taught me so many times before.

In fact, in the 30 minutes I waited for her to bring the keys to the second car I wanted to drive, I had it all figured out.

At least I did until Tracy blew me off in favor of another customer.  Yup.  The bitch walked by me with a young couple who wanted to test drive the car I was looking at. She looked up at me and waved as she got into the back of the car. WITH THEM.

So Tracy will never learn that the key to success is in a good firm handshake.

Oh, and not being an asshole. That’s on the top ten keys to success, too.


Filed under Adult Traumas, Bat-shit crazy, Being an asshole, Childhood Traumas, Growing up, keys to success, Shake, Wimpy handshakes

88 responses to “You Can Shake On It!

  1. The handshake matters and I remember the endless lessons in business classes where women, especially, had to practice over and over to rid themselves of the dead fish, or fingertips only, nonsense. Here’s a firm handshake to you, Elyse!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. There is nothing more immediately unnerving than when someone just barely grasps your fingertips. I’m like, “excuse me, am I a Queen? Are you going to kiss my knuckles?”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don;t know how people get certain jobs either. “Car salesperson” is one you would *think* requires a modicum of car enthusiasm!

    Had my own shockingly-“what are you possibly doing at THIS job?” moment the other day. (Conducted via phone though, so I can’t say what our young gentleman’s handshake would have been like.)
    ME: I have a prescription from my vet for a particular diet for my cats. Can you tell me if you have the feline renal support dry food in stock?
    PET STORE CLERK: [puts me on hold.]
    *sound of muzac, for a very long time*
    PET STORE CLERK: I’m sorry, but the computer says we don’t carry “feline renal support” food. All we have is “renal support” food. For cats.

    Maybe, in addition to hand-shaking, Captain Levitt could have taught him how “the key to success” as a pet store clerk includes knowing the word “feline”…?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am trying to decide which is worse…the limp handshake or the hand crusher. Both types exhibit different kinds of assholery. Hmm…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Haha! It’s amazing how those life lessons come back to you! I wonder if Tracy would’ve been open to instructions…sounds like she really wasn’t into mastering the basics of her trade.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I seriously doubt she would have been all that receptive. But I was willing to give it a shot. Until she blew me off, that is. Now, she will never know of Captain Levitt and I’m sure everyone will agree she is the poorer for it!


  6. She sounds like a real space cadet. Sales is a cold-practical, manipulative endeavor that you have to view as a sociopathic game. A floppy handshake is quite the liability in a profession like that!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Captain Levitt was a fascinating man. Thanks for including the link about him. Of course, he was right about the handshake. There is nothing worse than a limp handshake…unless, it is a bone crusher handshake. I hope you don’t buy a car from that dealer.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My father taught us early on “if they shake hands like a fish, don’t trust them” This advice has proven true on more than one occasion.
    Tracy is just an asshole!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your Dad, like Captain Levitt, was absolutely right. It is one of the ways we make a first impression!

      I think there is something seriously missing in Tracy’s personality. She was just seriously not all there. That’s really why I was going to go ahead and teach her, rather than just assuming she’s an asshole. Then she proved you right — she IS an asshole. AND there’s something missing upstairs (as my dad used to say).

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow. Customer service at its finest.


  10. Sounds like Tracy had more problems than her handshake… although it was a good indicator. The Captain was right.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tracy has a long road ahead of her, I fear.

      And yes. The Captain was right — repeatedly! (Poor man. I imagine him going home to his wife and commenting how something just wasn’t right with that little girl!)


  11. Dana

    WTF? Was she a Kardashian?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. NotAPunkRocker

    Ick I hate the “delicate flower” approach some women take to professional contact.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’ve been known to sever all communications with someone that doesn’t have decent hand-shaking skills. I try to be tolerant and even empathetic in most instances, but poor hand-shaking? Sorry, this one just irks me in a weirdly over-reacting sort of way. Especially when the person’s hand-shake doesn’t seem to match their personality. Or when they clasp your hand and won’t let go, doing the double-clutch version. It’s not rocket science, people. Really. LOL


  14. Glazed

    I never offer to shake the hand of a woman, but I will shake back, if offered. Many times I’ve heard women comment about how they hate shaking hands. I figure it’s mostly a male thing, so unless a woman offers first, I keep my hand to myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve never heard that before — I’ve never heard women complain that they hate shaking hands, that is. Maybe I’ve been in the business world for too long! But business women get insulted if a man DOESN’T shake.

      Maybe it’s regional. There’s got to be some rhyme or reason to it!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I wonder how that young couple made out. Too funny 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Wow! The handshake told everything. And how bizarre that she dumped you for another customer. I would have gone straight to the manager.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Ewwww is right. That kind of handshake gives me the creeps. As it should. I hope you find the car you’re looking for without more creepy handshakes. I have to wonder how old (or young) Tracy is. At the risk of sounding like an old woman, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of young folks in the wrong jobs lately. They always want to be something else so don’t bother to take the time to be good at what they’re doing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You nailed it. She is young and totally not interested in her job — she has other dreams. (Which if they involve fashion design will not be realized either, at least based on her work outfit!) I am pretty sure she won’t have it should I decide to go back to that dealership!


  18. Hilarious…I didn’t see that comin’! ….and on the other hand…a man that shakes a woman’s hand and attempts to crush the hell out of it…equally as wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. He looks like Robert Crumb! The happy version. You’re a funny thing. Poking him with a sharp stick like that. Teasing him.

    Ummm…yeah. You sure showed her. What if she had a physical ailment that prevented a firm handshake? It’s possible.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had to look him up — and you’re right. Captain Levitt looks like the younger, bow tied version of Crumb. I didn’t know who he was and had to look him up.

      I would have been considerate when I broke the news to Tracy that she was turning off every human she met with that handshake. Or I would have tried my best, any way. And if she had a physical ailment, I would have been mortified but tried to help her work around it.

      He was a nice man, the Captain. Classy. He actually wrote a book about how to become “classy” — and he was on the cover of Parade Magazine some time in the 1990s promoting it. He was an amazing character — I think of him whenever I see a nutty character in a movie/play that someone (usually my husband) insists isn’t realistic.


  20. Alright … she was a loser on several fronts … but did you eventually buy a car at that dealer?

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Being the right kind of asshole can at times come in handy. Tracy is an example of the wrong kind of asshole. Her handshake said it all. Just ICK.

    One of the things working in IT has gotten me is in trouble, often. We have a great number of H1B resources mostly from India. Many of them (men) will not shake hands with women, due to their religious and cultural issues. This includes with employers, customers and peers. It is an issue, frequently. I have had many clashes with them over the years. Try that one on for Asshole behavior.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve never experienced that — not even when I worked at WHO with the wide assortment of cultures and nationalities. How interesting. And I can see how it can be extremely annoying to a professional woman.

      I’ve actually read articles that strongly recommend against shaking hands, in favor of (terrorist) fist bumps as being more sanitary.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Hand shakes, limp wrists, cold fish, sloppy goo. Yep, sampled ’em all.
    My Dad told me to think of the other person’s hand as a tennis racquet, one to be ripped firmly but not so hard as to stop the circulation. In Tracy’s case perhaps it goes a step further to match her wooden personality??

    Liked by 1 person

    • She really was pretty weird. So weird, I think I will always remember her. She didn’t seem to have much self-awareness of just what an odd duck she was. I know when I am not fitting in in a situation, I KNOW it. She just didn’t — she was totally clueless.

      The tennis racket is a good analogy.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. What a goose. She doesn’t have a clue, and it will stifle her in the longer term.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am afraid it will. That’s why I was going to tell her. Because she needs to know, even though I know she would feel completely insulted no matter how kindly I tried to break it to her. That being said, because she really gave me the willies, I wonder how kindly I could have done it! So I am probably better off having been blown off in favor of someone else.


  24. Paul

    We actually covered that in B-school- how to shake hands. There are different customs in different cultures and it is easy to insult someone if you are unaware. Here in North America a firm handshake of the right length is considered a tool in your relationship building kit. In China writing on someone’s business card is considered disrespectful and red with gold are the most powerful colors to use. They filled us with stuff like that – including how to eat a duck properly with only a fork.

    Anyway, Tracy’s lack of communication in leaving you would have pissed me off more than anything. That was just plain ignorant. I’ve left car dealers for less. If you had been male in a suit and tie my guess is that she would have been more sensitive.

    Anyway, yep, the handshake goes a long way in our society to making a deal work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • By the time she blew me off , she was already in my S-list! So it was way too late

      But the right customs makes a huge difference. Knowing how to not insult someone is an art. But I don’t think Tracy is an art student!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I had to come back to this comment, Paul. I think that those cultural lessons probably were the most valuable of all! Because other things change — culture does too, but way more slowly.

      We have a friend who works in the State Department. John and I were fascinated when we served chicken breasts on the bone, and she cleaned the thing with just her fork! Impressive.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Even if you didn’t have an appointment, you were there first. Didn’t Tracy ever hear of multi-tasking? My car saleslady often as 2 or 3 deals going on simultaneously, and she never lets any one person feel less important than any of the other people. AND, she has a very good handshake.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Oh yes, wimpy handshakes are weird. It’s like limp pasta in your palm. But as for her shenanigans with dissing you and catering to the couple instead? Ten lashes with limp pasta, I say!

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I disagree with you on that last point. It seems that being an asshole is, unfortunately, one of the keys to success.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. So funny! I hate wimpy handshakes… and assholes.


  29. Like you, I cringe at a limp fish handshake and the bearers of same usually prove out just as Tracy did. Glad you will not be buying a car from her. Shake on 😊❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Great post! The handshake is absolutely where it’s at.

    Liked by 1 person

Play nice, please.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s