Almost every time I sit down to write a blog post, I skip a beat. I hesitate. I really have to think about how to express my thoughts without, well, physical expression. Anyone who knows me knows I’m very animated. Whenever I write something, I always think, how will you understand what I have to say if I can’t shake your hand, touch you on the shoulder, hug you? Whether cultural or sometimes societal, Its how we have lived.
Now I’m having those same thoughts about what life will be like when we’re able to return to “normal” after COVID-19. Especially in the wine business. What if we can never again stand close enough to one another to tap glasses before that first sip? I’m not so sure that the coronavirus could stop traditions that have been around for some 1500 years – but with a virus as powerful as this, it will be interesting to see how things evolve. And we will, no doubt, find out.
How about the handshake? Think of everything it conveys. A symbol of peace and expression of goodwill since the 5th century and rooted in Ancient Greece, to show you weren’t carrying a weapon. Will it become a thing of the past? If we can’t shake someone’s hand when we meet for the first time, how else will we form that first impression a handshake almost always conveys? I have closed deals on a handshake because, in some places and circumstances, a handshake can be more powerful than a signed document. Will we be able to get back to that?
Of course, our younger generations have their variations. My son and his athletic buddies have enough physical symbols and interactions that could be accepted as formal, However, that fist bump might be hanging around for a while.
We may be living with social distancing for a long time to come. I’m afraid the celebratory tapping of a glass of champagne, the impulse to shake a hand or kiss someone on the cheek, may always remind us of this deadly virus, and cause us to pause even long after the danger is gone.
But there are some things the virus can’t take away. What we can say to one another with eye contact. How a simple thing like remembering a name can open the door to a conversation, about business or anything else. If we have to, we’ll adapt.
I for one hope social distancing isn’t going to be the “new normal,” that we’ll be able to resume all of our customs that require touching, and of course, stand close enough to one another again to tap a glass. Or two.