I’m just going to go ahead and say it. I feel like I’m an awkward person. No shame; it is what it is and all manner of other conciliatory statements. That being said, most things in life that “normal” people find absolutely every day and run-of-the-mill, I often end up making awkward. I’m that girl who struggles with inner arguments when I am entering a building and I see someone behind me (but when I say see someone behind me, I mean this person is halfway down the hall) and debate whether to stand there awkwardly holding the door for the stranger or go through the door normally and be on my merry way. You can probably guess which option I typically choose, since the former contained the word awkward, and that seems to be the topic. So, yes…I stand there holding the door open. Inevitably, my seemingly polite gesture just makes the person I am holding the door for feel like he/she has to sprint for the door so as to not make me stand there longer than necessary. The most awkward part? That seemingly slow motion progress of the person to the door. Where do I look? I already smiled at that person…assured them with a hand gesture that they don’t have to hurry. So I normally look at the floor. The floor is so welcoming. It is so welcoming, that it often just reaches out to offer a spontaneous meeting, a kind hug even, but that is a topic for another time. That topic’s working title being, “The Functioning Klutz.” But I digress. Back to holding the door open. The poor person arrives semi-breathless, thanking me for holding the door for him/her, and I feel the need to apologize. AWKWARD.
But here is a situation that I think everyone, even those blessed normal people, finds awkward. I’m talking about those instances where you keep running into the same person over and over again within minutes. This can happen at the grocery store….smile and nod when you first reach for the same apple. Minutes later you’re both waiting at the deli counter. Smile again, a little less broad, and maybe say “hi,” if you’re feeling so bold). Turn the corner to make your way up the chips aisle, and who is there? You guessed it…your friend from the produce section. You run into her at least 2 more times during your trip, all culminating in a mad dash for the checkout with the shortest line. All bets are off in the courteous department when your one mission is to get out of the store as quickly as possible.
A similar situation recently happened to me while I was out for a relaxing, or what was meant to be relaxing, walk along my street. It was relatively early, and my street isn’t a long one, but as I began my walk, I found that one of my neighbors was already out running. Now I have no problem with this neighbor. She seems like a very nice person, but I also don’t need to continue to encounter her multiple times in thirty minutes. We are both not at our best, no make-up, and my long hair thrown in a messy ponytail-bun hybrid. Her short hair is pushed back by a neon green and pink headband. We both are listening to music, so at that first meeting we each take an earbud out to smile and say hi. Now, as we are going in different directions, I proceed to have an inner debate. Do I stay the course or do I switch sides of the road to go the same direction as her? I am following the proper walker/runner street protocol, so I keep to my side.
Several minutes pass and as I clear the crest of the hill, I see her beginning her trek up it. I panic, yes panic, and wonder whether to say hi again, simply smile, or just ignore her. My last minute decision? Seek the comfort and solace of my phone and pretend that I am messing with my music. I know this strategy will only work for me once, so in all future passes, I just plaster a congenial smile on my face and hide behind my sunglasses, not knowing if she returned the smile or not. It is safer that way. Someone needs to come up with a widely accepted etiquette for these types of situations, but for now, my resolution might just have to be to walk and shop at 5 AM.