Sunday, February 12, 2006

The age of avian flu gives us the "elbow bump"

According to a story in the New York Times, we may soon be replacing the friendly handshake with the elbow bump as a greeting.

What is the elbow bump? Instead of people shaking hands, involving potentially germ-spreading skin on skin contact, people will touch elbows briefly as a friendly greeting. It sounds like something visiting extra-terrestrials would do, but it is already being done by health workers who deal with outbreaks of the Ebola virus.

The term to describe practices such as this is social distancing, which seems destined to join the ranks of terms like identity theft and podcasting.

If there is a flu outbreak, not just will public health be threatened, but the economies and prosperity of affected nations as well. People could be forced to adopt a Howard Hughes-esque germphobia to preserve a functioning society.

The story goes into detail how Asian countries had to adapt to fears over the SARS virus. Goverments encouraged people to wear surgical masks, even making them manditory when using subways. People learned to deal with the new facewear quickly, even dressing them up with corporate logos and cartoon characters.

In the middle of a deadly flu outbreak, it appears the urge to be stylish will still be as strong as ever. The hipster bug can be just as contagious as the most lethal germ.

I wonder how this will affect the business world. Will the term handshake deal be retired? A firm handshake is often used as an insight into a person's strength of both body and character. Can the elbow bump fulfill that role?

How far are we away from the film Demolition Man, where people greet each other with no physical contact at all, waving their hands in the air in a circular motion?

In the future of Demolition Man, not just did you have to watch your hands, but also your mouth. Profanity detecting voice sensors were installed everywhere...charging you a fine every time you cursed.


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