Friday, July 17, 2009

Seeing Someone At The Grocery Store You Know (But Don't Know)

I'm so glad I found this picture:

You think it’ll be a peaceful trip to the grocery store: your mom asked you to pick up some groceries and it’s supposed to be a nice relaxing trip on your own. Suddenly while picking up your eggs you see that person from that party last night that you’ve never talked to but you both know each others names. In fact you’ve known their name for months upon months. They’re good friends with one of your good friends but somehow you never got the introduction. Each time you saw them you thought it might happen but then got nervous or had to poop or it just didn’t happen. My god.
That moment of brief eye contact and then looking above their heads to pretend like you were just looking at the pretzels. Come on, are we really not above this yet at this point in the evolution of social situations? It’s such an obvious fact that you both know each other and are simultaneously feeling the same uncomfortableness that is very avoidable (yet not avoidable).
We all have those people that we know of and that know of us, but yet we have not “met” formally yet. Each time you see each other (especially one on one) it becomes more and more difficult to make the jump to make that introduction because after 2 or 3 awkward passings alone in the hallways, if you go for the introduction it’s pretty obvious you are doing it because you had so many awkward moments (and not because you actually want to meet them).
The only realistic solution I can see is to confront the situation head-on and say something to the effect of, “hey I’ve definitely seen you like 10 times and we still haven’t met (insert phony chuckle with smile). I’m Peter” (insert handshake if you dare). There is a slight chance that you thought that person was being awkward because they knew who you were, but in fact they had no clue who you were and it was all in your head and you were just making yourself feel awkward. If this is the case, shit; next time you see them they will give you an awkward return hello but probably won’t remember your name and will probably think you’re a creeper who has stalked them (hopefully only on facebook at least).
But, it’s better to risk it because if you don’t take the plunge (preferably sooner rather than later) prepare to face a hoard of bearable but intensely unpleasant awkward moments every few weeks, as well as a lack of confidence knowing that you’re awkward.
A side-note about grocery stores: what's perhaps even more awkward than the situation described is seeing someone you do know (say your mom's friend), saying hi, exchanging greetings (hopefully not shaking hands), catching up and then going on your merry way. Well that's all fine by me, but then, the problem with the grocery store is the whole place is designed like a cheese maze. So after this conversation, you're wandering around looking for something (perhaps cheese, literally) and suddenly you're in the same aisle as your mom's friend again. So you either avoid eye contact (which is kind of a pathetic trick to pull on a 50 year old woman) or you make some joke about how that bread she's holding isn't actually 100% whole grain (how is that a joke?).
Or maybe you're not pathetic enough to ignore her yet not witty enough to come up with my fine bread joke. So you just nod and say "hi" (again). Or perhaps (even worse) you end up right in front of her in the same checkout line. You've already said everything there is to say, but yup, you gotta fire it up again and think of something to talk about for a minute and a half. Or you can just shamelessly load up your groceries in silence and pretend not to notice she's there.

You're not necessarily safe once you get to the checkout counter. Checkout counter interactions can be brutal, especially after already saying hello the first time. Avoid eye contact at all costs.

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