College can be awkward.
I cannot count the number of times I have found myself in an unavoidably uncomfortable situation in my normal day to day adventures, only to make my escape thinking all the while, “Wow. I am very awkward.”
Being on a campus of thousands creates endless opportunities for encounters with one another, and more often than not, these encounters leave much to be desired by way of normalcy.
Here are what I have found to be the most common pitfalls of basic human interaction on a college campus like University Park.
“Is this an acceptable distance at which I should hold the door for you?”
You’re walking into the HUB-Robeson Center for your Panda Express fix and (hopefully) reminded of your manners as you glide through the door and look over your shoulder to see if you should keep it held open for the next guy.
He’s on his way towards you, so you decide to keep your grip on the door because you’re a decent human being and enjoy doing nice things for people. But this guy was not as close as you thought — in fact, a good five seconds have passed.
He is still not at the door. You are standing there like the awkward chivalrous person you have made yourself out to be, cursing your obligation to social pleasantries as you uncomfortably see the slow walker quicken his pace to get through the door and relieve your from your social misery. This is an all too common, all too unavoidable occurrence.
“I think I know you, but if you don’t acknowledge, I won’t either”
Eyes still swollen with sleep, you spot them on your way to an early morning class — the friend of a friend, the party acquaintance, the one-time group project partner.
You probably know their name, and you might even be Facebook friends. Even worse, you could have their number in your cellphone at this very moment. They are walking in the opposite direction on the sidewalk, ensuring you will certainly pass within inches of each other, positioned in such a way that it will be impossible to pretend you didn’t see their face. Neither one of you wants to stop and say hello — the bond between you is not strong enough for such an effort. But you feel pretty horrible about blatantly ignoring someone with whom you have interacted before in a way that warrants acknowledgement.
What should you do? Oh, wait, they’ve already passed, and they didn’t look your way or even feign interest in your presence. What a jerk.
“I’m going in the wrong direction”
I see this one happen the most to my fellow students — and yes, maybe me from time to time.
You’re walking to class, a little more quickly than usual because you’re running a bit late. But where are all of the usual suspects? The kid smoking his pre-class cigarette outside of the building, the girl with the turtle-shell backpack, and the guy who rides his scooter to class — all staples of your Wednesday morning walks — are noticeably absent.
Oh, that’s right. It’s not Wednesday, it’s Thursday, and you are walking in the wrong direction. Better take out your cell phone and pretend to text while stealthily turning around and blending into the crowd heading the other way. I’m sure nobody noticed your obvious, nonchalant turn-around in the middle of the sidewalk. You meant to do that all along.
“Are you waving to me? Oh.”
This one happens to me more regularly than I care to admit. You could be anywhere when it strikes — the gym, in class, downtown — nowhere is safe. You’re minding your own business when a smiling person starts to approach you, walking briskly in your direction.
They look happy to see you, and they raise their hand to wave and greet you. You smile in return, and tentatively raise your hand and feebly wave back — you don’t know who they are, but you don’t want to be rude.
They continue in your direction, but breeze past you and greet the person standing somewhere behind you, and your feeble wave transforms itself into any variation of gesture that you can play off as normal — anything but a wave at the person who was decidedly not waving to you. Smooth.
Katie Murt is a junior majoring in English and is The Daily Collegian’s Tuesday columnist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.