Putting the phone away
Speaking up at the bus stop
I’m standing at the bus stop, scrolling through Instagram for the 10,000th time, waiting very impatiently for the Inner Loop. Two minutes later, after checking my email, texting my mom and debating whether there’s anyone I need to call, I realize there is a girl standing right next to me. I remember the resolution I made a few weeks earlier: whenever the opportunity presents itself, put your phone away and start a conversation.
Crap. I totally forgot about that.
OK, that’s a lie. I thought about it every single time I rode the bus, stood in line at Starbucks or sat down next to a stranger in lecture. I thought about it every day, but I never actually did it. I always found some way to convince myself it was a bad idea — I’d be awkward and wouldn’t know what to say, they’d be annoyed I was trying to talk to them and playing 2048 would be much more entertaining.
But the day finally came. I stepped forward, shifted my weight onto my right foot and took a deep breath as I tucked my phone into my back pocket.
“I’m so bad at figuring out the bus schedule. I feel like I’m always here waiting around for five minutes or I almost miss it and have to run to catch it,” I laughed awkwardly. “I can never get it right.”
It’s always important to find a common point of interest — something you know the other person can relate to. I held my breath, waiting for her to respond.
She looked around to make sure I was talking to her before she said anything.
“Me too! Do you have the bus app though? It’s really helpful.”
“I’ve been meaning to download it, but haven’t yet! What’s it called again?”
“Ah, gotcha. Thanks — I’m gonna write that down so I don’t forget.”
Shoot. What else could I say? Maybe she didn’t want to talk… I reached for my phone. Nope. I had gotten that far. I was not giving up yet.
“So do you live over here?”
She turned back to me, smiling, and seemed surprised that I was so interested in talking to her.
“No, I’m a first-year. I have class in Ruffin on Tuesdays and Thursdays though.”
“What class is it?”
“Intro to Drawing.”
“That’s so cool! Are you thinking about being an art major?”
“Yeah, I actually am debating it. I’m on the bio track right now, but I just love art so much, so I might try to do both.”
“That’s really awesome. One of my best friends is an art major and she loves it! I, on the other hand, cannot draw for the life of me.”
The bus pulled up, but our conversation didn’t stop. She sat down in the seat next to me and we talked for the next 10 minutes — about art, our majors, our parents’ expectations, our own expectations, where we think we might want to be in five years. And to my surprise, it wasn’t awkward at all.
“Well this is me,” I said as the bus pulled up in front of Gilmer. I threw my backpack over my shoulder and started to stand up. “It was so nice meeting you!”
“You too,” she exclaimed. “It was really great getting to talk to you!”
And that was it. We didn’t even exchange names or numbers, and I haven’t seen her since, but it was unbelievably refreshing spending 15 minutes talking to the person next to me instead of staring at a screen, worrying about what the rest of the world was up to.
Now, I’ll admit, I still shy away from talking to people a lot of the time — well, honestly, most of the time. It’s not easy and it’s definitely not comfortable. But imagine walking around Grounds and passing people in laughter and conversation, learning about each other instead of checking their phones or picking at their nails. Yes, it’s scary when you’re the one starting the conversations, but lucky for us, we all have something in common. We’re all Cavaliers, and that kind of close-knit community won’t last forever, so we have a responsibility to take advantage of it while we can.
You never know where a conversation might lead, what changes it might bring, big or small. You never know how much it may mean for someone to know that you care enough to say hello, ask about their life and express interest in how they’re doing. And you’d be surprised to see how much it does for you in return.
We all have something to give and something to learn, so let’s start sharing.
Peyton’s column runs biweekly Wednesdays. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.