Oh yes, this is gonna get uncomfortable. To help calm you down, here’s a picture of a squirrel on water skis. Now that the tension has been lowered, let’s talk about those universal moments where we all feel like erasing our names from the history books. Buckle in and get ready for life’s most awkward moments!
Stuck in an elevator with one other person:
Let’s start with an old classic. You get into the elevator, some other guy gets in the elevator at the next floor, and it’s just the two of you for a good 30 seconds. Sometimes it’s fine, like when the other person is talking on the phone or flipping through forms or whatever. But other times, it’s just the two of you with a long, awkward silence. Have you ever started reading the emergency exit sticker just to make it look like you were occupied? Have you ever caught the other person quickly looking at you,as you quickly glance back at them, and then you occasionally keep looking over to see if you’re being looked at until your eyes eventually meet for a brief moment? To make matters worse, you’re often destined to get off at the same floor. And you apparently walk at the same pace.
When you have no idea what someone just said:
Have you ever found yourself asking your conversation partner to repeat whatever he or she just said, only to be stymied a second time? Once you throw a “what?” out there and you still can’t interpret the message, you have two equally terrible options: 1) Go for a second “what?” and make it even more awkward, or 2) Smile and hope whatever was said wasn’t a question, something really important, or both (i.e. “Did I tell you that I’m moving to Prague in the spring?”).
Making small talk with a friend of a friend:
Every so often, one of your buddies will introduce you to a cousin, co-worker, old high school friend, etc. It’s usually okay when your friend is able to mediate the discussion between both of you…until he has to go to the bathroom. By that point, you probably already realized what, if anything, you have in common and can continue talking about. If this particular fellow falls under the “if anything” category, you’re in for a nice awkward couple of minutes. You don’t want to talk about generic topics like the weather and news, but you may not want to say anything weird or personal either (after all, you just met the guy). Do you make an attempt? Do you go straight to your phone and pretend to text?
You realize you’re walking in the wrong direction:
Note that this is not the same as driving in the wrong direction. At least if you’re in a car, you can easily make a U-turn without looking weird. But if you’re strolling down a busy street by yourself and make a 180 degree turn out of nowhere, it can get a little awkward. The only advice I can give on this is to make it look like you forgot something. Maybe try grasping at your pocket and pretend you left your wallet in the car. That would at least let others assign a reason to your sudden spin.
Words come completely out of left field:
Rather than explaining what I mean by this, I’ll give you an illustration. I was working for a fast food chain over the summer (to keep them anonymous, let’s call it MicDonalds). My friend was taking orders in the drive-thru one night, and I could hear every exchange over my headset. On this particular evening a guy pulled up and quickly, in complete seriousness, said “Let me have a dozen tacos, six hard and six soft, and two Chalupas.” My friend (let’s call him Josep) sat there in silence for a solid minute before politely informing the gentleman that he was not at Taco Bell, as the man in the car then realized that he had been reading from the wrong shopping list. I always wondered who this encounter was more awkward for: him or us.