Perfect the art of avoiding awkwardness

Ryan Wenzel

For returning students, the first weeks of Fall Quarter are a time to catch up with friends and acquaintances. We share stories about summer jobs and vacations, compare class schedules and talk about where and with whom we’re living.

But one of the most awkward parts of the quarter is running into people you know only marginally – a friend of a former roommate, the girl you talked to twice in your freshman seminar, your best friend’s two-week fling from last year. Here are a few methods of avoidance I’ve witnessed:

The “Cell Phone” Method

This is undoubtedly the most common method used to avoid awkward conversations, and I’ve encountered it in several forms. Some reach for their cell phones to send – or pretend to send – a text message, while others use the opportunity to check their voice messages. The incurably dramatic will even pretend to be in the middle of a call. A popular variation on this is the iPod method.

The “Flyer Distraction” Method

Other students take advantage of the hundreds of flyers that cover campus sidewalks. It really doesn’t even matter what the flyer advertises. Catholics will scan flyers on Rosh Hashana services, and engineers will read about journalism speakers.

The “Scenery Admiration” Method

After the leaves change of the snow falls, you can turn to nature to avoid eye contact. This is probably the most practical method, since admiring scenery usually requires turning your head to the side, but you run the risk of colliding with people and trash cans.

The “Sudden Turn” Method

This method works best in the Sorority Quads. If you and a quasi-acquaintance are walking toward each other, you can take a sudden turn to the left or the right – even if you don’t need to. This method is very conspicuous.

The “Sunglasses” Method

Some prefer to hide behind a dark pair of shades. You might come face to face with someone you don’t want to talk to, but most conversation starts with eye contact. If they can’t tell you’re looking at them, they’ll probably leave you alone.

The fact that I’ve made this list suggests that I’m paranoid and antisocial. Maybe I am. Maybe those quasi-acquaintances of mine really were interested in Rosh Hashana services, taking in the colors of fall or receiving a call on their cells.

Don’t be like me. Perhaps it’s time to start being social and greeting quasi-acquaintances again, even if it’s sometimes awkward. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find an unexpected friend.

Just say hello.

Medill junior Ryan Wenzel is the PLAY editor. He can be reached at [email protected]