I was watching The Human Animal on The Learning Channel the other night. If you havent seen this series, it is a British gentleman named Desmond Morris investigating quirky things about how humans live and interact with each other. This episode was about gestures how people use them, and how they are different in different parts of the world.
For instance, I learned (it is The LEARNING Channel, after all) that if youre in Greece, you dont nod your head up and down to say yes, you wiggle your head from side to side. And in some countries you tip your head back and point your chin up to say no. But the best part was the segment on the various gestures used to show disdain (as Mr. Morris put it) for other human beings and their actions.
There was, of course, the ever-popular middle finger. The best part of this was that they videotaped real people in real situations all over the world showing off the various gestures. The middle finger was demonstrated by an older lady in a parking lot, and she was REALLY into it. Not only did she flip someone off, she got her whole arm into it stabbing the finger at the other person as if she could impale him/her with it. It was extra funny because she looked just like an ex-neighbor of mine a God-fearing, church-going lady who would probably offend herself if she ever even half-straightened out her middle finger by accident.
They also covered many others the well-known and always effective thumbing your nose, the not so popular two-fingers-in-a-V (not to be confused with V for victory), they even had videotape of old men sticking their tongues out at each other.
My love and I both agreed on our favorite gesture, though. This one is used in Sardinia, and involves thrusting both hands violently towards the other person with all the fingers outspread like youre pushing something away from you. Desmond Morris described this as simulating the action of thrusting animal excrement in the offending persons face.
Number one, Id love to know when they switched from ACTUALLY shoving animal excrement in each others faces to just pretending, and two, I’d like to know if any of them miss it. In fact, I dont know if there is a royal family on Sardinia but if there is, I suspect it was started by the person who said, Hey, lets stop thrusting sheep feces at each other cant we all just get along? and was summarily declared king or queen.
This reminded me of something that happened recently at a corporate clients office I work in (speaking of sheep ).
The always-wise corporate HR people decided they needed to start yet another program for Employee Recognition (about the sixth in a year). Nothing like a ten dollar Macys gift certificate to let your employees know you appreciate their working fourteen hour days for eight hours pay, or taking their Saturdays away from their families so they can fly to some unknown plant to perform thankless work.
Anyways, the HR people realized that the ways they have tried to show appreciation in the past have been less than motivational. They needed new ideas for what would please the workers, what kind of gestures would say thanks to an overworked and underpaid employee.
So a new form appeared in everybodys mailbox a form to be used to suggest ways in which to reward our fellow co-workers. In small letters at the top of the form were the words Employee Recognition Program. In HUGE letters right below that were the words GESTURE NOMINATION FORM. Im sure they figured they would get great responses like, Take us all on a picnic! or Double everybodys salary!
I was standing by my mailbox looking at this form when one of my co-workers came by. He saw the HR logo on the page and asked, What now?
I replied, Its the Gesture Nomination Form, of course.
Well, Im glad they asked us, instead of trying to come up with the right one themselves.
Yeah, I agreed. I grabbed my bicep with my left hand, clenched my fist, and thrust it upwards. I wonder if anyone has nominated this one yet?