Not long after the California lockdown I was talking with my gardener. He had just transferred some rocks from my neighbor’s yard into our yard at no cost to me. (It helped him out too because the neighbor was also his customer and he didn’t have to haul the rocks away.)

Still, I have a good relationship with the man and I wanted to let him know that I really appreciated him thinking of us.

I don’t know what I was thinking, but as I was thanking him I was overcome by the hardwired action of reaching out to shake his hand. Even as I saw my hand moving toward his, in the back of my mind I was thinking: NOOOOO!

But I couldn’t stop myself. Before I could control myself we were shaking hands.

I looked around furtively to see if any of my neighbors had observed my social transgression. I felt as though I had done something awful. I had actually shaken someone’s hand! What in God’s name was I thinking?

I’m happy to report that as of this writing—several weeks after the event—the gardener and I are still healthy.

But the mistake taught me a lesson: It may be hard to break habits of a lifetime, like hugging people you like and shaking someone’s hand to express your gratitude. Greeting people you hardly know with a kiss on the cheek is now a relic of the past.

But then, to be honest, I never much liked kissing people I barely knew anyhow.

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