“I wish to personally give you a hearty handclasp.” — Pierre Watkin to W.C. Fields in “The Bank Dick” (1940)
Unless one is a full-blown masochist — which I am fairly confident I am not — no one in their right mind has a favorite injury.
On the other hand, it’s probably not too difficult for most folks, when asked, to come up with one or more injuries they can imagine or have experienced that they would consider their least favorite.
Ever slammed your thumb in a car door? Got a sliver under your fingernail? Stepped on a rake? Sat on a tack? Run face first into a post or tree in the dark?
Yeah, me, too. All fine contenders on a relatively minor scale, yet painful enough that we’d rather not repeat the experience.
I’m actually thinking of a broader, less site-specific category of injury. My least-favorite injury would have to be the kind that folks are bound to notice and ask about, and yet I can’t explain. My most recent example has me wearing a goofy-looking wrist brace as I write this. Simply put, I sprained my wrist rather badly last weekend, and I haven’t the foggiest idea how or when it happened.
Well, OK, let me clarify that. I do have some idea approximately when I did myself this latest boo-boo, since I first noticed it not long after my wife and I had spent most of Saturday and Sunday moving a mountain of logs and chunks of trunk from the carved-up remains of the huge bicentennial-aged shingle oak that fell to its demise in our yard over the summer.
But we finished up that gargantuan chore just before the sun set Sunday evening without any significant accident or noticeable maiming as far as either of us could tell. And yet, within a few minutes after we were back in the house and cleaning up for supper, I suddenly noticed that my right wrist could no longer move in any given direction without an intense stab of pain far worse than any tack in the foot or even a rake handle to the face.
“When the heck did THAT happen?” I wondered out loud (after yet another exclamation of agony that would probably have embarrassed a small child).
The answer, of course, was not to be had, because my wrist had felt just fine throughout all the heavy lifting and hauling I had just completed. But now, even a full day later, I still can barely stand to move it even so much as to turn the key in my car ignition.
And that is embarrassing — not so much that I sprained my wrist, but that I can’t really say how I did it. I never felt it pop, twist or even twinge. So can I tell those folks who will inevitably ask that I hurt it moving lumber when, in fact, for all I know, I might have sprained it just turning the doorknob coming back in the house after the work was done?
If I do without the wrist brace, I could probably conceal my mystery injury from most acquaintances — until, of course, someone extends their hand to shake mine ... which, naturally, is exactly what happened with the very first person I encountered the very next day.
Like the macho man I must pretend to be, I bravely stifled a grimace and squeezed the hand that was offered me, but I suspect the person on the other end of that handshake must surely have noticed the perceptible lack of enthusiasm with which their hand was grasped.
Knowing full well that even in these more enlightened times, a person is often judged by the firmness of his or her handshake, I was immediately reminded of a favorite old W.C. Fields routine where the rotund comedian is congratulated by a pompous bank president with what he terms “a hearty handclasp” — accomplished by limply touching his fingertips to Fields’ palm.
Which, in a most roundabout way, brings me to this week’s hearty handful of faves — which might never have occurred to me otherwise, but which I also must hope not to be congratulated for, especially if it means a high-five, or one of these alternate methods of greeting I’d rather not have to demonstrate personally anytime soon. Allow me to simply describe them (wincing as I do) as:
MY FIVE FAVORITE MOVIE HANDSHAKES
— “The Bank Dick” (1940). As previously detailed, the “hearty handclasp” that W.C. Fields receives from his boss at his new job is anything but. Not sure why this has always struck me as so funny, other than it presents a somewhat cringe-worthy contrast to a couple of the more testosterone-fueled faves that follow. And perhaps because the snarky souse that Fields played so well in most of his films is also such a far cry from your typical macho male movie lead that when he reacts uncomfortably to this not-at-all-hearty handclasp, you know it’s a tell about the bank president’s character — you just can’t be sure exactly what it’s supposed to tell us.
— “Hot Shots!” (1991). Charlie Sheen and Cary Elwes, spoofing the characters played by Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer in “Top Gun,” are encouraged to resolve their differences with a conciliatory handshake — which they do, but so intensely that their grip literally sizzles and Sheen’s hand is crushed into Silly Putty as smoke rises between the two adversaries. Hey, at least they didn’t duke it out ...
— “The Parent Trap” (1998). The secret BFF handshake that Lindsay Lohan as Hallie (and later Annie) and Simon Kunz as Martin the super-cool butler share more than once in the Disney comedy remake involves 18 different moves (performed to “Soulful Strut” by Young-Holt Unlimited) and reportedly took the 12-year-old Lohan an hour to learn. But don’t laugh; it would probably have taken me a lot longer.
— “Fast and Furious 6” (2013). Dwayne Johnson (aka “The Rock”) is one of my favorite current action-movie stars, and as such, he made a perfect addition to the ensemble cast of the “F&F” franchise. Possibly his funniest scene of the series so far is when he encounters a condescending, less-than-helpful security chief (Stephen Marcus) who doesn’t seem to have the surveillance video that Johnson’s character is politely requesting. Marcus’ character smugly assumes he is about to send Johnson away empty-handed when he accepts his handshake, only to have his pudgy digits virtually crushed in The Rock’s grip while the big guy, still quite politely, patiently and entirely straight-faced, explains why the security chief will be henceforth more helpful, then strolls out, leaving the poor guy doubled over his smushed paw and nearly in tears.
— “Rush Hour 2” (2001). Hong Kong Police Force Inspector General Lee (Jackie Chan) and Los Angeles police Detective James Carter (Chris Tucker) meet up at the airport and share a cross-cultural handshake with nearly as many different moves as the one in “The Parent Trap” (only hipper), all while carrying on a casual conversation that doesn’t break its rhythm one bit.
HONORABLE MENTION: “Predator” (1987). Early in director John McTiernan’s sci-fi actioner, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers as old military pals meet up to launch an ill-fated commando mission to Central America. At first sight of each other, the two Hollywood studs stalk up to each other and press the beefcake as only guys with 22-inch biceps can — in a truly hearty handclasp that most closely resembles a midair arm-wrestling match.
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