Accidental High Five

Straight back. Knees slightly bent. Abdomen tight. I strain, lifting the iron plates off the floor for the last time. Warm red tension floods my hamstrings, starting at my heels and climbing my back. A short "hup!" involuntarily sneaks out between my teeth. Pause. Lower. The plates ring. I sit.

“Nice lifts eh? Take it easy,” says Pedro.

I’ve seen Pedro several times a week for nearly 10 years. I don’t know his last name. I don’t know what he does for a living, his taste in music, whether he has a wife, children, or a full time job. I know he benches 225 (which isn’t bad for a guy who must weigh 160 pounds soaking wet). I know he has unbelievable abs, but can’t squat his own weight.

“See you Friday,” he concludes. He raises his hand: a casual, shy wave.

Inexplicably, I raise my hand.

From this position -- two men, with hands raised -- there are only two alternatives. Either one of us swears to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, or we must, by law, continue with the forward motion and give each other a high five.

And so, it happens. An accidental high five. Even worse, this foreign high five descends into a thumb-locked faux-bro handshake.

“Uh, yeah, see ya,” I say.

Awkward silence. We do not make eye contact. He says nothing more. He heads towards the door, pulls on his red, wool balaclava, and leaves.

Sitting on the frayed black vinyl of the weight bench, squirming with awkwardness, I replay the event like security camera footage, trying to decipher where this breakdown in boundaries occurred — what path of social retrograde has allowed me to deliver the accidental high five, followed by the faux-bro handshake. Why is the exchange so awkward? Or perhaps more importantly, why did it seem so natural for me to engender that high-five, where it clearly broke some unspoken rule.

I blame “Woot!”

The phrase “Woot!” burrowed itself into my common lexicon in the course of my deep, deep Counter-Strike addiction. Woot. The first time someone typed “\/\/00t!" in team chat, I didn’t need an explanation. I understood instinctively that this was a virtual post-touchdown high-five, given after the complete domination of another clan in an organized, best of 5 maps marathon.

Since those days — almost a decade ago — the cult-of-woot has extended into every game I’ve ever played online. Every level I make in World of Warcraft, whether it’s level 10, or level 50, has been greeted by a quickly typed “Grats” from guild members I have never, and will never meet in person. Every online game of Settlers of Catan where I have managed to eek out a screw-my-neighbor victory has garnered a “well played sir” or a “you slimy bastard” — high praise when coming from a friend. Even in games where I am cripplingly bad, forever trapped in the back of the bus with Elliot-the-fat-kid-with-glasses-who-eats-paste, there are rare moments when I float gently off the bottom of the scoreboard, and I can crow to my teammates “I’m not last!” They will casually support me, whispering "good going Rabbit" in my ear.

Playing games gives me something all too absent from my day-to-day life: a sense of acknowledged accomplishment. When I do play a game online, and I am, against all odds, successful, there is a culture of communal praise which is addictive. With the expanded community of the internet, where the discussion, reveling, and dissection of alternate worlds has become as natural as breathing, even single player games become stories told to sympathetic ears. Journeys through nuclear wastelands and underwater cities and ASCII fortresses become war-tales to be swapped across glasses of scotch on podcasts and forums. Phosphorous-fives fly high, without awkward looks, remorse or regret.

As I sit there on the weight bench, head bowed in shame, staring at the frayed black vinyl and my sweaty palms, with no small amount of sadness, I understand. I have come to take for granted the ethereal support of fellow warriors, travelers, companions and opponents. I have come to rely on the social rituals of gaming so much that I have lost my instinctive understanding of shared-but-solitary gym language, where acknowledgment is limited to a knowing nod, or mediated through the ritual of asking for a spot.

As Pedro walked by, my instinct was honed by online interactions, not physical ones. I have come to expect the constant, empty praise which serves as small talk. But there is no room in the physical world to reward every well executed Romanian dead lift with “woot.”

Instead, I am stuck with the sharp awkwardness of the accidental high five.

Comments

I use w00t in everyday conversation...should I be ashamed?

Nice article. Woot!

Jesus, even I'm not that bad at socialising.

EDIT:

Also, it sounds like you were both people who didn't know how to operate in that environment. (Assuming you translated his shy wave correctly.)

interstate78 wrote:

so he "ways" 160 lbs?

sorry about being the grammar police but I couldn't resist since im the first one mentionning it.

The irony here is thick.

I'm not very good at socializing in person. Sometimes, I bring my online persona into a reality setting and I end up embarrassing myself. Actually, that happens quite a lot. I am lame as hell.

adam.greenbrier wrote:
interstate78 wrote:

so he "ways" 160 lbs?

sorry about being the grammar police but I couldn't resist since im the first one mentionning it.

The irony here is thick.

Wait here. I'll get the butter knife.

I'm not last! (Well, eventually I won't be)

Nice article, Rabbit. And, as has previously been mentioned by dhalgren, I too "woot!" out loud at times. Often accompanied either by a shake of the head (by those in the know) or an odd look (by pretty much everyone else).

I hated high-fives even when I played sports back in the stone ages. There's just something about them that's.... wrong. Gimme' a fist bump, arm pump, handshake, or even slap on the back but don't give me a high-five.

Don't worry, next time you meet this guy in the gym it will probably be more awkward.

On a side note, don't blame Woot! for your problems.

There is only one way to resolve this. Go for the Top Gun high five. It encourages walking away afterwards.

McChuck wrote:
rabbit wrote:

Even worse, this foreign high five descends into a thumb-locked faux-bro handshake.

Something like this?
broken img

Link is broken.

I high five everyone. You get me coffee? High five! It's sunny outside? High five!

Well, at least there weren't butt pats. Good thing GWJ doesn't effect you offline actions.

1Dgaf wrote:

Jesus, even I'm not that bad at socialising.

EDIT:

Also, it sounds like you were both people who didn't know how to operate in that environment. (Assuming you translated his shy wave correctly.)

Dude. Harsh.

My boss tends to pop out a w00t every now and then. It's lame, but better than the girl that says "epic fail!" every 20 minutes.

The way it's said totally contextualizes it as pithy no-language. Woot. Swell. Cool. They're all equally meaningless, to my ears.

Atomicvideohead wrote:

I high five everyone. You get me coffee? High five! It's sunny outside? High five!

You must be in sales.

I have experienced some high-five awkwardness at sporting events. It's difficult to know when it's OK to high-five outside of the group I attend the game with. Could we work on some etiquette here? I need clearly defined rules to provide justification for my misanthropy (when people break said rules).

** SNIP **

erasing traces of ... irony?

Mystic Violet wrote:

I'm not very good at socializing in person. Sometimes, I bring my online persona into a reality setting and I end up embarrassing myself. Actually, that happens quite a lot. I am lame as hell.

You have an online persona? Er, are you 'roleplaying' now?

@ Rabbit: *Understanding five*

Funny, and true. I have a couple of friends at work I game online with on a regular basis, and our office banter has definitely been shaped by our gaming activities. There's a camaraderie there that the rest of the office doesn't really get.

A sense of acknowledged accomplishment.

I think, rabbit, you summed up the entire reason I play multiplayer games there in one phrase.

We need more of that in "real life".

Duoae wrote:
Mystic Violet wrote:

I'm not very good at socializing in person. Sometimes, I bring my online persona into a reality setting and I end up embarrassing myself. Actually, that happens quite a lot. I am lame as hell.

You have an online persona? Er, are you 'roleplaying' now? ;)

What I meant was the way I act online "works." The problem is that I'm usually like that offline too. I don't work offline.

William does the same exact thing but he takes it to the extreme. I have to smack him upside the head sometimes because he'll say and do things as if this world was Azeroth.

rabbit wrote:

Even worse, this foreign high five descends into a thumb-locked faux-bro handshake.

Something like this?
IMAGE(http://expendableasset.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/biceps1.jpg)

rabbit wrote:

Dude. Harsh.

"so natural for me to engender that high-five, where it clearly broke some unspoken rule. "

I think everything would have been fine had you not felt there was a problem. If you had high fived, done the handshake and forgotten about it. It's when you caught yourself, that you thought 'I'm not supposed to do this' that things went wrong.

Let's replay the scene with that in mind:

Rabbit: *high fives, handshake without hestitation*

Pedro thinks: 'Wow, that's taken me back. He's never done that before'

Rabbit: *confidently* See ya. *goes back to something else, pays no attention to Pedro*

Pedro thinks: 'Well, whatever. I'm hungry. Better get home and get some food'.

Atomicvideohead wrote:

I high five everyone. You get me coffee? High five! It's sunny outside? High five!

hmmmm... what does that remind me of?

Could be worse, rabbit:

1Dgaf wrote:

Let's replay the scene with that in mind:

Rabbit: *high fives, handshake without hestitation*

Pedro thinks: 'Wow, that's taken me back. He's never done that before'

Rabbit: *confidently* See ya. *goes back to something else, pays no attention to Pedro*

Pedro thinks: 'Well, whatever. I'm hungry. Better get home and get some food'.

Rabbit: *butt patt*

Pedro: 'I NEED AN ADULT!'

Mystic Violet wrote:
Duoae wrote:
Mystic Violet wrote:

I'm not very good at socializing in person. Sometimes, I bring my online persona into a reality setting and I end up embarrassing myself. Actually, that happens quite a lot. I am lame as hell.

You have an online persona? Er, are you 'roleplaying' now? ;)

What I meant was the way I act online "works." The problem is that I'm usually like that offline too. I don't work offline.

William does the same exact thing but he takes it to the extreme. I have to smack him upside the head sometimes because he'll say and do things as if this world was Azeroth.

Ah i see.... extreme WoW roleplay with sado-masochistic tendencies.... both online and in real world. Gotcha!

I have to admit that i'm the same lame-jokey, goofy, gibberish-sputtering person both online and 'offline'. I'm pretty much a see what you get kind of person except that in the real world you can see what i'm feeling (because i can't hide it) whereas online i come across as more intelligent because i can edit my way to showing a semblance of flow of thought.

Damn, i hate the real world sometimes.

A socially-awkward Rabbit wrote:

I have come to expect the constant, empty praise which serves as small talk.

Hey man, that ain't empty praise. When I write "grats", I mean it.

Awkward Five!

IMAGE(http://i301.photobucket.com/albums/nn50/ColdstreamGWJ/todd5.jpg)

I actually had an 'awkward moment' last night. A (guy) friend held out his hand like he was going to shake my hand, then he went in for a hug. I saw him stick his right arm out and stuck mine out. When I saw the hug, I figured 'too late, I'm committed to the handshake' and stuck with it. He ended up giving me a half-hug/ half-handshake thing.

I responded by beating him senseless, then burning his house down to hide all evidence. I committed suicide to avoid all memory of said awkward moment. Merry Christmas from the grave, bitches!

Poppinfresh wrote:

I responded by beating him senseless, then burning his house down to hide all evidence. I committed suicide to avoid all memory of said awkward moment. Merry Christmas from the grave, bitches!

Zombie high-five!