Here is an old joke. A young boy saw a book called “How to Hug” and bought it. At home, he discovered that he bought a volume of the encyclopedic dictionary which included all the words and expressions between How and Hug. This is a pre-Google era joke. Today when you Google the phrase, you get a list of fascinating links: how to hug a girl, how to hug an elephant, how to hug in text, and how to hug yosuke. This last one threw me a bit; I confess I don’t know who or what yosuke is. Remember that episode from “The Big Bang Theory” when Penny is ecstatic in bed and Leonard soooo predictably and naively tells her, “I Googled it”? Today we can indeed Google anything. However, we get a concrete answer to a concrete question, which is very convenient but not always completely informative.

Ah, but how sad it is that we cannot use the old joke anymore! For me, it carries an additional hidden meaning. To wit, before we try to hug anyone or anything, we should probably check and see if it is hugging that is meant or something else entirely. Also it pays to learn a little about the customs and traditions of a different country. Americans hug easily; the French kiss everyone they meet for the first time; we don’t do either. What I mean is, before we try our hand at anything new, we should really spend a few minutes learning How to Hug in this or that situation.

I had an epiphany when one of my kids was about seven years old. At the time, I was a member of a large international team performing The Global Survey of Humanity. I ran around asking people their opinions on a set of questions; then I had to enter all the data and transmit it to the center in California. There was a deadline. It was also announced that ten winners, those who managed to get the highest number of responses in one day, would receive a cash award of $ 1,000. My aims were very clear: get the biggest number of responses and get the money. While I was busily typing with lightning speed, my child kept coming at me trying to show me a newspaper. Rather than sending her away, I stopped and asked her what it was she wanted. She pointed at an ad: “Write The Best Reader’s Letter and Get a Prize!” I asked her what made her think I could write the best reader’s letter, and this is what she replied. “You can type; you know how to get published; and I want the prize but I cannot write such things yet!” The prize in question was “a large golden clock” as she informed me. The request seemed logical and well-founded. I scanned the newspaper, typed a letter which she carefully sealed into an envelope, addressed and sent as per requirements. I returned to my work. In due course, I received my cash award for the survey. And then we got a phone call from the newspaper. We took a bus downtown, came to the office where my kid was offered a choice of variously shaped wall clocks. It is ticking as I type right above my home work station.



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