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!”
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.