Sunday, July 26, 2009

Shaking Hands

At church this morning, there were three separate occasions where someone reached out to shake my hand. Most people don't realize that I'm paralyzed and unable to shake back. This actually occurs quite often and I'm trying to figure out what to do when it happens. Most of the time I just sit there, but I think people feel embarrassed for putting their hand out or bad that I don't reach my hand back to them. I think I should come up with something to say like "I would love to shake your hand, but I'm unable to. Thanks though." Or something like that.

Then I was thinking about getting a mechanical arm built in on my wheelchair. Every time someone tries to shake my hand, my nurse or I could push a button that would make the arm rise. Although, that might take a lot of work. That's why I think I should say something or have a sign. It would be more polite than just looking at them and making them feel bad or awkward. I know I shouldn't but sometimes I laugh after the person walks away. Not at the person but at the situation. I know I can't shake their hand, but they don't realize that. Next time it happens I'm going to say something and see what reaction I get.

Oh, and the picture above. I went on Google and put "shaking hands" in the search box under images. After looking through 14 pages of people shaking hands, I finally found this picture of a guy with his head cut off reaching out to me. Perfect representation.



Anonymous said...

Hey Jen, how about this" I'd love to shake your hand but then I might lose my benefits. They think I'm paralyzed"

Jenni said...

I love that! It sounds just like my humor. Thanks, maybe next time I'll use that one.

Matthew Smith said...

If it's a pre-planned meeting, perhaps you could give advance warning that you are unable to shake their hand because of your disability. Perhaps you could also invite them to take your hand. I wouldn't make the joke about benefits, because some people would take it literally.

There is a column on the website for the New Statesman (a left-of-centre British political magazine) by a quadriplegic woman named Victoria Brignell, and she wrote that once someone asked for her autograph, even though she can't hold a pen.

I have a quite separate reason for not shaking hands - my religion prohibits it when the person is of the opposite sex (regardless of what sex you are). So I often give advance warning like this, but still, it has caused problems for me, on one occasion causing what looked like a certain job to become a no-job. I wish it was as well-known that we (Muslims) don't shake hands with the opposite sex as it is that we (like Jews) don't eat pork.

Truth to tell, I don't like shaking hands with men either - I have no idea if they washed their hands last time they relieved themselves (many men don't) and some men will thoughtlessly crush your hand when they shake it.

Jeff said...

Haha Jenni - I like the idea of using humor. Knowing you, you'd rather just put them at ease and get over any awkward stuff and just have a normal conversation. But, they're uncomfortable and sometimes not knowing why you're in your chair and a quick joke would put them at ease. you're good at that kind of stuff. Also, one of the great things about having a church home is the longer you go there and the more you get involved, word will get around about who you are and why you're in your chair and people will come up to talk to you because they know you and want to have a conversation. When i talk to you,you're my niece, not "the girl in the chair." As soon as people talk to you a few times they'll be the same way!