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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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There Is No Need To Shake My Hand

Comments (13)

At dinner the other night with an old friend, we somehow ended up discussing TV shows.  I don’t watch much TV beyond my obsession with 24 and my relatively new infatuation with Gray’s Anatomy.  He was explaining several shows to me that he thought I would enjoy.  In response to his suggestion that I would enjoy Monk, I responded that the one time I watched it I was so unbelievably anxious that I had to leave the room, wash my hands, and count to nine three times.

I’ve been on the road all week.  When I left on Monday morning, I felt great – I’d had a nice restful weekend and was ready to go.  On Tuesday morning, I woke up with a sore throat and a headache.  As the day went on and I had more meetings, I noticed that every interaction started with a handshake.  I started trying to dodge these – both because I didn’t want to spread whatever I was coming down with and I didn’t want to pick up more.

By Tuesday night my cold was in full bloom.  Thankfully a good night sleep wiped it out and I woke up Wednesday with that horse sexy voice that I wish I could figure out how to have permanently, but I felt fine. 

I’ve always disliked “the handshake.”  I already wash my hands a dozen times a day – every incremental handshake increases the number of hand washes.  It’s a weird custom that I’ve never really understood and – with 25% of the people I’ve been meeting with sniffling, coughing, or working hard to keep their noses from dripping – seems absurd this time of year.

So – the next time you see me, just raise your hand in a greeting.  There’s no need to shake my hand.  And – in case you are wondering, I wash my hands both before and after I go to the bathroom. 

  • http://www.stillsecureafteralltheseyears.com Alan Shimel

    Brad- I get the shaking hands thing but reading the post about washing three times during Monk for anxiety and the obsessive hand washing habits, I could not help but think of Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes in The Aviator. Have you seen the movie? Do you ever wash your hands to the point of them being raw? So do you do it to be like Leo, Howard or just Brad ;-)

  • http://www.clickbrain.com Brad Nickel

    I have a business partner/friend, that is constantly washing his hands, but I will never forget our first business trip together. I went to his room to get him for dinner. After he opened the door, I saw that he was still unpacking. We were on a 3 day trip, so I had wondered why he carried two suitcases, but didn’t make a comment at the time. He proceeded to continue unpacking. First he brought out his own towels, then his own pillow case. I thought, well, OK he just likes to be careful. Then he brought out a set of sheets. By the time he brought out his own universal remote control, I thought I was going to fall over from laughing. I guess I shouldn’t have, because now that I have a child I am paranoid about everything I touch and Purell is my best friend, but at the time it was hilarious.

  • http://sabet.typepad.com bijan

    sounds like your OCD is like mine :)

    I keep a bottle of purell on my desk and in my car at all times….

  • jerry

    Before? Before going to the bathroom?

  • http://ben.casnocha.com Ben Casnocha

    I also am battling a bad cold.

    I must note that I have little patience for people who complain about the handshake. Sure, it’s a germ haven and annoying. I’ve often used the “raise your hand in greeting” (though my brothers say it looks like a Hiel Hitler salute). Still, this is NOTHING compared to the insane practice of hugging that invades high schools and colleges. The standard practice is hug each person in the room when you enter, hug each person in the room when you leave. This is maddening, and makes the handshake very do-able.

  • http://shripriya.com/blog Shripriya

    Which is why the Indian “namaste” or “namaskar”, where a greeting is with both of your hands folded against each other is the best! :)

    Seriously, though, germs was one of the considerations when they came up with it centuries ago. I was in India recently and loved greeting people that way (especially my parents’ friends who love it when my generation keeps up with traditions)

  • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

    Alan – I’d put that in the “just Brad” category.

    Jerry – think about it. Every person I know uses his hands in some part of the bathroom experience prior to finishing up. You’ve just shaken hands with N people and touched Y random things. Why wouldn’t you want your hands to be clean before you – ahem – did your thing?

  • http://burningdoor.com/steve steve olechowski

    if you think handshaking passed illnesses are bad, how about full contact body herpes:

    reuters: wrestling banned in minnesota

    http://today.reuters.com/news/articlenews.aspx?type=oddlyEnoughNews&storyid=2007-02-01T144641Z_01_N31186266_RTRUKOC_0_US-HERPES-WRESTLERS.xml&src=rss

  • sigma

    Brad,

    As I recall, your father’s a physician, so really you have a good source of advice.

    My understanding is that what is crucial is not what your hands touch but keeping your hands away from the openings — mouth, nose, eyes — on your face.

    Sure, after returning from shopping, etc., first thing I do is wash my hands so that I CAN safely touch my face.

  • http://www.nimbletheory.com jeff barson

    Do you know how many bacteria inhabit your mouth, your skin, and your gut?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bacteria_in_the_human_body
    It is estimated that 500 to 1000 different species of bacteria live in the human body (Sears, 2005). Bacterial cells are much smaller than human cells, and there are about ten times as many bacteria as human cells in the body (1000 trillion (1015) versus 100 trillion (1014); Sears, 2005). Though normal flora are found on all surfaces exposed to the environment (on the skin and eyes, in the mouth, nose, small intestine, and colon), the vast majority of bacteria live in the large intestine.

    Many of the bacteria in the digestive tract, collectively referred to as gut flora, are able to break down certain nutrients such as carbohydrates that humans otherwise could not digest. The majority of these commensal bacteria are anaerobes, meaning they survive in an environment with no oxygen.

    So scrub away… it’s not the germs in general, it’s specific germs. Sorry for the reality check.

  • http://instamls.com Andrew

    I hate the shake. I am a firm believer of the fist-nuckle-tap. Put it out there and see what happens. Some will grab and shake the fist and others will give you a dirty look. Just say, I don’t want my germs to reach you.

  • http://www.sotirov.com Emil Sotirov

    I totally agree with Brad about the “before” bathroom washing of hands. Now, I know I am not alone… :)

  • Allison Bergamo

    Say it with me people…Ewwww! I’m off to bathe in bleach. Have a good night!

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