When you work with refugees, it is a really, really good idea never to make physical contact with a member of the opposite sex. This is all the more so if the member of the opposite sex is a Muslim woman from the Horn of Africa. "Yes, some of them will be willing to shake your hand if you offer it," a conservative Somali coworker admonishes. "But you should never offer it! When they are touching a man, they are dying inside."
I was bustling through the building earlier today at a purposeful clip, several other people following right behind me. Going through a doorway, I ran directly into a Somali woman. Her back was turned to me. She had been having a parting conversation with a friend down the hall, and she had left her arm stretched out behind her, vaguely reaching for the doorknob.
We collided. I couldn't back up, because of the other people following me through the door. The Somali woman and I were pinned together, stunned, for a long, long fraction of a second, as we both processed the fact that her palm had become firmly, unambiguously pressed against my, um, boy parts.
I was the first to recover. I very gently grasped her arm and moved it away from my body. And I waited for... what? Anger? Humiliation? Hysterical weeping? Some indication that she was dying inside?
To my relief, she and her friend both burst into the universal laughter that comes immediately after life's more ridiculous and embarassing moments. I gave her the most sincere "excuse me" of my life to date, and continued on down the hall.