Watch out! Someone is coming at you with the clear intention of saying hello.
Will your shoulder be thumped or your fist be bumped? Will your hand be slapped? High five? Low five? Will you receive a pat on the cheek or a pinch on the cheek? A grabbing of the forearm or a full leap into both arms?
Will you be hugged or kissed? Kissed on the cheek or the mouth? Which cheek? How many times?
The chances of receiving a curtsey are not big unless you make a living teaching ballet, running debutante balls or reigning. But the bow and namaste are not uncommon, although not necessarily performed by, respectively, Japanese or Hindus.
The handshake is more of a rarity these days, unless performed with four hands, either in a pile-up, patty-cake style, or sandwich style, with one set taking the outside and the other inside. The hands may also be used to grab or snap a finger, curl the fingers together, or execute some combination of such gestures.
You never know, and you may also not know who that person is bearing down on you. Someone you obviously know but whose name you can't remember? Someone you don't know and whose surname you will never be told?
What will be said, or what will you be expected to say? How're you doing? Pleased to meetcha? Wassup?
Miss Manners realizes that etiquette's stodgy old greeting routine is considered too complicated for any sensible person to spend the time mastering. It decrees that gentlemen are introduced to ladies, young people to their elders, and lower-ranking people to high officials. Not only do you have to figure out which is which, but then you have to figure the combinations. Suppose the lady is a young prime minister and the gentleman is an elderly bishop? (Answer: "I presume that two such distinguished people as you already know each other.")
You also have to chose among the correct things to say on being introduced: "Good morning" or "Good evening," which requires checking the position of the sun; or "Hello" or "How do you do?" depending on the formality of the occasion, and whether you can count on the other person to understand that the answer to "How do you do?" is "How do you do?" even though that makes two questions in a row. (Etiquette opposes any declaration of being pleased to meet someone on the cynical grounds that it may not turn out to be a pleasure.)
The simple part is supposed to be the handshake, which Miss Manners would have thought to be quite warm enough as a start for an acquaintanceship or an evening. True, the lady/older/ranking person has to initiate the gesture, but we have to wrestle with identifying which one that is, anyway.
There are exceptions and objections to handshaking -- religious, physical and hygienic -- and exemptions are granted. But the gesture itself has been so well known that a refusal to participate has to be explained ("I'm so sorry, but I can't shake hands"), because a refusal to shake hands is a symbolic insult (and thus a handy gesture when faced with tyrants and outlaws). Unless, of course, you are too busy thumping, bumping and kissing, or positioning yourself to dodge or return whatever may be thrown your way.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My daughter had breast enhancement surgery -- nothing outlandish, but a bit larger than most girls her size, and both men and women she barely knows ask, "Are those real?"
If she doesn't say anything, they assume her breasts are fake. Can you think of a comeback that will put them in their place and keep them guessing?
GENTLE READER: You wish to encourage your daughter to banter with strangers about her breasts, so as to keep them speculating? And exactly what made you think that Miss Manners would agree to join in the fun?