Give Me Five!

by Cal Newport | 11/1/01 6:00am

Remember when it was cool to high five? (Correct Answer: yes) I would say that the high five really hit its peak right around the time I was in the third grade. Boy, did we take our aerial hand slaps seriously. "I regret that I have but one life in which to high five" was our motto well not really but if we had thought of that then I bet we would have used it! I mean, every circumstance seemed appropriate for the 'ole five up high:

"Hey, how you doing big guy!" (high five)

"You win the kick ball game at recess? Nice!" (high five)

"How'd the hand amputation go? Hang in there buddy!" (air five)

Yeah, we were real high five maniacs back in the day. Of course those were simpler times: Umbro athletic shorts were appropriate school attire, we could still get away with watching Nickelodeon and our only fears in life were long division and head lice. (We were always getting checked for head lice in those days. Looking back, it definitely seems odd. It's not like we lived near a monkey-infested swamp or anything, but for some reason school health officials felt that when we entered the third grade we were suddenly at great risk for head lice. Maybe they were punishing us for the excessive high fives?)

But I digress. What I'm basically trying to say is that in the third grade we all high fived, and we were all happy. That is, until we began encountering "hangers." Everyone remembers the first time that they confidently went up for a high five and the second party involved "left them hanging." I speak from experience when I say that there is no greater possible embarrassment. I guess we had to move on sooner or later ((preacher) "I now pronounce you husband and wife," (groom) "Give Me Five! Up High!"), but I still honestly think that the crushing shame of unsuccessful high fives is responsible for a good deal of the repressed rage in this world:

(Hitler) "Hey man! Slap me some skin!" (big smile, boldly extends hand)

(Hitler's Friend) "Eh?" (pays little attention)

(Hitler) "Don't leave me hanging bro!" (smile looks more forced)

(Hitler's Friend) "Later" (walks off)

(Hitler) "Grrrrrr"

All right, maybe that was in poor taste, but as you can see I am pretty passionate about the demise of the 'ole five in the sky. After that fad faded away we were left to wallow with slap bracelets for four years. Do you remember slap bracelets? (Correct Answer: yes) Talk about a poor excuse for entertainment! ("Hey look! A flat piece of fabric colored metal, I'm sure not impressed" (slap) "My God! It curved around my wrist! Awesome!") But we made do, half-heartedly slapping our wrists again, and again, and again, until eventually someone found a way to get hurt ("I wonder if this would work on my eye? Ow!"). So of course the teachers took our slap bracelets away, and this cleared the path for the arrival of arguably the most pathetic activity of all time: pogs.

I still maintain that no one ever actually figured out how to use pogs properly. I remember glaring at my pile of pogs with the intensity of a doctor about to perform laser guided brain surgery then ever so gently raising the large plastic slammer taking careful aim and then chucking it down at roughly 200,000 miles per hour from six inches away. Of course the pogs would fly everywhere, and then we would all look real pleased and shake our heads approvingly as if we just accomplished an act of great skill. If this is what the original inventor of pogs had in mind then someone should really give him some head lice.

In fact, I'll go on the record right now and say that I believe that pogs represent the low point of our generation. Think about it, for hundreds of years to come this is what we will be remembered for:

(Student) "Let me get this straight, they would throw a hunk of plastic at a stack of cardboard? What was the objective?"

(Teacher) "To knock over the stack of cardboard."

(Student) "Well of course the stack is going to be knocked over, they are chucking hunks of plastic at it! What a stupid generation! Let's go deface their tombstones."

This is why we need to take action now to erase this sad chapter from our generation's history. The way I see it, the only other people who know about our pog usage are the lunch room aides from junior high school. So all we have to do is agree to never speak of pogs again, and then attribute any mention of them by the former lunch room aides to senility ("Yeah right old-timer, I'm sure we played 'pogs' I just can't remember if it was before or after we would ride our 'magical unicorns' around the 'fairyland' in which we all lived?") I'm sure we would get away with it! And with no more pogs to tarnish our past, we could regain our rightful spot in history as the "'Full House' Generation." Who knows, maybe we will be so happy about this turn of events that we will bring back the high five? I sure hope so. Up High!