An old western expression that translates to, “we have a passing acquaintance but have never been formally introduced.” On the surface simple enough to be readily understand but I feel that there is a deeper meaning, embodied in the word “shook.”
The handshake was once the traditional way to seal a deal. It did much more than simply signal the end of a discussion and mark the point where the lawyers would begin their involvement. A man’s (generic, women are included) morals, ethics and honor were all tied together in that act of pressing the flesh.
A handshake implied promise, engendered expectation, held the possibility of disappointment and was not to be taken lightly. How things have changed.
A couple of years ago I had two old project cars taking up space in the back of our lot, a ’79 Pontiac firebird and an ’89 Camaro RS. I advertised them on Craig’s List for $500 apiece, hoping for a quick sale.
On the first day a guy showed up with his fifteen year old son in tow. He said that they were looking for a project, something that he and the boy could build together. The lad fell in love with the old Pontiac and a deal was struck. The only glitch was that I would have to wait a week for payment and so I agreed to hold the car.
Later the same day another buyer came by. I explained that the car was sold. His response was to offer $800 cash on the spot if I would sell it to him. He seemed confused and then angry when I said that I couldn’t take his money because I had already shook on the deal with the other fellow.
By no means do I hold myself out to be a paragon of virtue but I do believe that if you can put a price tag on ethics you might be missing out on some very important aspects of human interaction.
I miss those days when a handshake was the seal to a deal, not the arcane language hidden in the fine print of a contract. This computer age has pretty much reduced us all to ones and zeroes in a world where all corporations now hire people for the express purpose of finding ways to increase profitability without resorting to the bothersome task of rendering additional service.
I may be blowing against the wind but each time we shake on something I think that we should ask ourselves, is this a commitment or merely a gesture.