I’ve been sick for almost three weeks now, and it’s not fun. I make an effort not to infect the people around me, but unfortunately conventional etiquette gets in the way. You’re supposed to shake people’s hands, right?

My proposed substitute is the “virtual handshake.” I explain that I’m sick, and suggest that we pretend to shake hands from two feet away. Sound good?

It does to other economists, confirming my view that we are models of good sense and common decency. But the rest of the world reacts poorly – so poorly that I’ve given up offering them my virtual hand in friendship.


Why can’t we just switch to the virtual handshake on a permanent basis? Must we share our germs with everyone we meet?

If the virtual handshake won’t fly, what else could we substitute? Japanese bowing strikes me as highly civilized, but even I’m not weird enough to start doing it unilaterally.