1. Walking into a huge lecture hall 20 minutes late
Remember those great occasions when a first year would be late and walk into a 150-person lecture halfway through the class and the professor would stop speaking and let them walk to the closest seat in silence — which just so happened to be in the fourth row from the front — while everyone watched them? Yeah, showing up late to a Zoom call lecture late is cake compared to that.
2. Sitting next to someone you only somewhat know on the bus
This is the worst, especially if it happens in the morning. I once sat next to a person I knew vaguely through a club while on my way to an early morning exam and spent 10 minutes sputtering half-legitimate statements to avoid any awkward silences. We ended up being friends eventually, but it definitely wasn’t because of that conversation.
3. Or just mistaking a stranger for a friend or classmate
Most everyone knows about this — when you're walking down the sidewalk on Grounds and someone is coming from the other way and you think you might know each other, so you stare as you approach without saying anything. The person is a total stranger about a quarter of the time, but the whole walking-staring contest is still super unnerving.
4. Running into someone at the toaster station in dining halls
Most of the time this has happened to me with classmates I’ve only briefly met or perhaps exchanged a “hello” once or twice because we both got to the dining hall at the same time after class. The light conversation starts off fine but usually gets drawn out too much because the toasters always take longer than you think they will — or maybe that’s just me. Regardless, dining halls can be a breeding ground for weird social interactions.
5. Passing by people tabling outside Newcomb
As someone who has been on both sides of this coin, dealing with CIO tablers will not be missed. Though I will say it is funny to see students come up with ways to avoid getting small pieces of paper shoved out in their faces — the best one I’ve seen is someone making direct eye contact then immediately darting their eyes to the floor and speed-walking into the dining hall.
6. Showing up to a get together before anyone you know is there
One strange opportunity the pandemic has given us is to get closer to our family and closest friends. Plus, now that almost all social interactions with strangers are online, the possibility of walking into a party or study group before the person who invited you shows up and having to strike up conversation with people you only know through a mutual friend is gone.
7. Accidentally interrupting an in-depth conversation
If this has ever happened to you, you probably know that there is really no graceful way to extract yourself from a serious conversation that you’ve accidentally walked into. This is especially true since you usually did have an actual reason to talk to them — to get notes from class or figure out when the next paper is actually due — and you still need to go back to talk after having backed out of the situation. What a drag.
8. Running into a professor in the hallway
This could actually go either way — sometimes it's great to stumble across your professor and strike up a conversation if you’re on close terms. Other times you wave and say “Hi” and they don’t know who you are so they just look confused as you both pass each other. Really, the easiest way to go about this situation is to not go about it.
9. Running into a professor in real life
I don’t think this is quite reaches the level of finding out your high school math teacher is also a bartender, but maturity doesn’t have that much of an effect on the struggle to have a light conversation without any awkward silences. One time I went to see a performance in Richmond and ran into my Acting I professor during intermission, where I found out her husband was in the cast — a really crazy interesting encounter all in all. Still, we couldn’t avoid awkward silence for longer than 15 seconds.
10. Ending up next to your T.A. at a frat house
Seeing your T.A. while out drinking with friends is all around a shifty interaction because you feel like you should probably be nice and socialize but also the only thing you really have to talk about is class, and the music is pounding your ears in anyway. Plus, there’s always that weird underlying fear that they would somehow get you in trouble.