Saturday, November 8, 2014

High Five

The High Five:

If the Internet is to be believed. [1]  "Gimme five" or the "low five" has been popular since before WWII and is at least as old as the twenties. [2]

It took until the 70's for it to morph into it's mentally deficient cousin the "high five".

At the risk of giving away my feelings about this too early in this post, I can't stand high fives.

Wikipedia lists several possible origins of this overhead hand slap.  It seems the most likely [3] is Glenn Burke and Dusty Baker, who were both playing for the Dodgers back in 1977.  In a moment of pure happiness after Baker hit his 30th home run and secured the Dodgers place in the play-offs, Burke ran over to the plate to meet Baker with his hand over his head.  Baker, not knowing what else to do, reached up and slapped it with his own hand and thus this societal pain in the ass was born.

If it wasn't Burke and Baker who were responsible, all of the other possible origin stories also involve sports.  So whoever it was, we can at least be reasonably sure that the origin is sports related.  Which makes sense and truth be told I would have been glad to see whoever it was that invented it, performing it that first time.  Or during any other spontaneous celebration of a difficult victory.

You see my problem with the high five isn't that the action is stupid or that it is inappropriate in and of itself.  Instead my problem with it is two-fold.  The first is that it is over-used and the second is that once someone puts up their hand, you are now socially obligated to reciprocate.

To further elucidate [4]:

Any import given to or from a high five, any real sense of meaning was long ago washed away by overuse.  It is now akin to asking somebody, "How ya doing?"  Which has been asked so many times, that the speaker doesn't really want or expect any answer longer than 'fine'.  Which is okay with the person replying, because they don't want to give anything longer than that either.  It's just an extended form of exchanging hi's.

Similarly, the high five, which was created in a moment of spontaneous joy to celebrate a momentous occasion is now used to celebrate everything from unjamming a stapler to managing to open a door.  In fact, I suspect you can think of someone who asks for a high five every time you see them.

Gary [walking up to a group of friends]: Hey, what's up?
Toolbag: It's Gary! High five!
Gary: What exactly are we celebrating here?  My ability to walk over here or just the simple fact of my existence?

And while that's only semi-annoying, there are plenty of other similar examples of exchanges the have become so common place their real meaning/intent is lost.  For instance saying "Bless you" when someone sneezes, wishing someone, "Have a nice day" when they leave and the previously discussed "How are you?" just to name a few. [5]

What makes the high five more annoying is that it doesn't just require a short verbal response.  Instead you must physically join in on the celebration of the workaday and you really don't have any choice.  Because when presented with a raised palm and a verbal: "High five!" you cannot ignore it without causing yourself to look like the jerk.

Chuck [the most annoying person you know and somebody you usually try to avoid seeing never mind touching at all costs]: Hey look, we have on matching socks!  High five!
You: We both have on plain white socks.  If you look, you can see that they aren't even the same brand.
Chuck: [hand still raised expectantly] . . .
You: Sigh.

Why must I be forced to participate in another's celebration of the mundane or inane?

Did you just win the game for our team?  Then I believe a celebratory display is in order.  High fives, hugs, picking you up on our shoulders or something similar is not only okay, but is called for.

Did you just pick a stray paper clip up off of the floor?  Much like the hugs and parading you around on our shoulders is probably going a bit too far, perhaps it really isn't worth a high-five either?

The ultimate problem is that some people just really, really love to get/give high fives.  Is it that they are just so overflowing with joy that they feel compelled to share it?  Or perhaps they are deprived of human contact?  Maybe social interaction such a rarity for them that the momentary smack of palm on palm is an oasis in a desert.  Maybe it's some sort of brainwashing.

I think that from now on when I find myself on the receiving end of a high five request, I'll just hug the person instead.

Or perhaps I should carry around a pocket full of confetti that I can throw to up the celebration one more notch into the absurd.

Or it might be that I'm just a grump.

High-fives: D+

[1] - And why wouldn't we believe the Interwebs?
[2] - You can evidently see Al Jolson doing it in the Jazz Singer.
[3] - Or at least the most commonly believed.  And eventually what else matters?
[4] - It's an SAT word.  Go look it up.  Fine, I'll look it up for you.  Here.
[5] - It's not that there is anything wrong with these. But when you say, "Bless you" after someone sneezes do you really mean that you hope they receive some sort of blessing or are you just filling the space with the socially normed response?

No comments:

Post a Comment