Have you ever noticed that when politicians mingle they frequently touch each other? I noticed it again Tuesday evening before President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union speech. The TV showed us the assembled members of Congress awaiting his arrival.
They shook each others hands, they patted shoulders, they patted backs. A few put arms around shoulders. And in male and female encounters, they frequently kissed one anothers cheeks or at least brushed cheek to cheek.
Then when Obama finally walked down the aisle through that mob, several women kissed his cheek or brushed it with their cheeks. I thought to myself, I hope theyve had their flu shots.
And when the president finally made his way to the pulpit or whatever they call it, he reached back up and shook the hands of Vice President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House John Boehner. It seemed to me as though Boehner wouldnt let go as fast as Obama wanted to. Ive seen kids do that.
But theres something about the political life that urges a person to press the flesh and pat backs and shoulders. I know because I felt that urge in 1980 when I ran for 1st District county supervisor.
Id always been shy and standoffish before that. (I think news reporters naturally are.) But as soon as I started wanting everybodys vote, I started shaking hands and patting shoulders and backs. And once I started doing it, I found I liked it. I guess I didnt do it enough, though. That November I lost the election by 56 votes. But at least I dont feel as shy as I did before.
Speaking of shaking hands, I noticed two workers doing that recently in a grocery store. Well, they didnt exactly shake hands. I think it was more of a fist bump and shoulder slap. And it made them feel good; I saw them smile.
Ive read that such greetings are often called homie handshakes. And they are often complicated routines including thumb grips, finger slides and fist stacking. They look like fun. I wish I knew how to do a couple of those homie handshakes, but they came along too late in my life for me to learn any.
And that brings me back to the State of the Union program. The Republican response was delivered by Sen. Marco Rubio. I didnt envy him. He was all alone in front of the camera in a quiet room. There was no live audience to stand up and applaud him after every two sentences.
There wasnt even a handy glass of water. He had to bend down and stretch sideways, almost out of the picture, to reach the bottled water. I hope that after his speech somebody gave him a nice homie handshake.
Phil Dirkx's column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column appears here every week. Reach Dirkx at 238-2372 or firstname.lastname@example.org.