Odious Osculation

The Wall Street Journal reports a new challenge in the cutthroat global business environment:

Shake hands? Kiss? Or kiss-kiss-kiss?

This is the quandary for Frank Higgins, one of today's global business soldiers. He is employed in Glendale, Calif., by Swiss-owned Nestlé USA Inc. as president of two divisions, one of which markets to Hispanics. With so many national customs involved, ordinary office greetings require savoir-faire.

This is not a problem in Germany, of course, where a handshake and a warm "Moin!" is as personal as a greeting gets.

I did, however, face the dilemma the article describes during two visits to Romania, where the double cheek kiss is common as a friendly greeting. I never grew completely comfortable with the practice because my American mind could never quite shake off the perceived suggestiveness of the gesture, especially when it was directed at one of the rather numerous beautiful young women I had the pleasure of meeting.

Nonetheless the practice does become somewhat mechanical after time. I can recollect leaving an event at a high school and walking down a line of four or so teachers, all of whom I dutifully double-kissed as a farewell. I was so caught up in the repetitious process that I did not notice that a middle-aged American whom I did not much care for was standing idly at the end of the line. When I finally reached this woman, I had already begun to lean in before I noticed who it was, and, already committed fully, was thusly forced to see the thing through. To have to fake cordiality and kiss someone whom you are loath to be even near was for me severely upsetting, and I still feel a slight shiver at the base of my spine recalling the event a year on.

If there is such a thing as cooties I contracted it on that day, and I fear no amount of circles, dots, or any combination thereof will inoculate me against so terrible an affliction.