People Started Greeting Each Other with Elbow Bumping or Foot Tapping

Boris Johnson and Justin Trudeau elbow pump at a press conference
Artwork by Anthony Faust
Boris Johnson and Justin Trudeau elbow pump at a press conference

During the pandemic, people adopted practices that minimize human contact to prevent the spread of the disease. Social distancing became the norm, and alternative greetings such as fist bumping, waving, bowing, foot tapping, and elbow bumping replaced handshakes.

Handshakes have a long history and are a universal symbol of greeting, respect, congratulations, and farewell. However, adherence to hand hygiene guidelines was often lacking, and experts warned that handshakes can transfer many bacteria and pathogens.

Of these alternatives, the fist bump is the closest motion to a traditional handshake, and transmits fewer pathogens compared to a handshake or high five. The fist bump maintained the essential qualities of a handshake by using the upper extremity and allowing eye contact, while it also reduced the risk of contamination that came with the filthy inside of the hand. But for some, that was still too much skin-to-skin contact.

Elbow bumping became a popular way to greet others, with prominent figures such as political leaders, health officials, and athletes adopting this practice as a safer alternative to traditional forms of greeting.

At the very beginning of March 2020, Vice President Mike Pence, who was tasked by the Trump administration to lead the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic, demonstrated this trend by using an elbow bump to greet Governor Jay Inslee during his visit to Washington state. The US Women’s National Soccer Team traded elbows instead of handshakes in a match with England, and baseball players opted for this celebration over the traditional high five in spring training. People were quick to follow the trend, and the elbow bump took off.

More coordinated and paranoid people took it one step further (pun intended), by replacing the handshake with the footshake. This greeting did away with upper body connection altogether, instead bringing the inside of each person’s right foot together to tap, sometimes followed up with the left feet tapping. This one took a bit more balance and looked a little silly. It didn’t quite catch on as well as the elbow bump.

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About the Author

My life as a husband and father transformed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sent home from work in March 2020, I've yet to return to the office. Adapting to the new pandemic world proved challenging for us all.

However, we managed to find silver linings. Drive-by birthdays brought joy to my kids' friends. I'll never forget stumbling upon a heartfelt hand-painted rock during my jog, reminding us that we're all in this together. Regular Zoom happy hours with close friends created cherished memories.

While quality time with my family was a blessing, we also faced hurdles. Assisting my youngest daughter with frustrating math homework on a poorly designed iPad app tested our patience. Both girls struggled with wearing masks during sports and school.

Sadly, witnessing COVID-19 being politicized and witnessing the closure of small businesses while the wealthy thrived was disheartening.

I wrote this book to document our experiences, learning from them and striving for better decisions in the future. Join me on this rewarding journey of resilience and growth.

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