When I left for college years ago, my mother, like most parents, gave me advice. The best of which was to bring my laundry home so she could do it. The worst of which was that it would be nice to see people from my high school on campus and that it would give me a sense of home.
I suspect that she uttered these words in an effort to reassure herself that I wouldn’t be too far away and that part of me would still be home. Her intentions aside, I was going to be excited to run into people from high school?
Balderdash! There are some people from high school that I like seeing. These people are called my friends. The people I don’t want to talk to are the ones I conveniently run into in the worst of situations.
One such situation is when you find yourself alone in a hallway with the girl from gym class and are left with the dilemma of choosing between A) maintaining your high school relationship and ignoring each other or B) engaging in conversation because you have so much to talk about, such as how you went to high school together.
More often than not, I plant my eyes squarely on the ground or wall and choose option A with all my might. Sometimes, my effort is not enough, and before I can sneak by, “Adam Burns!” is screamed my way.
It is in situations like these that I badly want to become Homer Simpson. That way, I could just scream and jump out the nearest window, thereby ridding myself of any and all awkwardness that could potentially arise. Sadly, I am not a cartoon.
The plan to ignore certain persons from your high school goes along smoothly until junior year or so, when you find yourself in the same discussion section as someone you’ve avoided.
I’ve been in this predicament several times, and it’s not that bad. At least until all hell breaks loose during the icebreaker.
It is divulged during the name, hometown and concentration section that you and your former classmate are, in fact, from the same school. “Oh, so you know each other?” your GSI asks.
This impresses a surprising number of people in the class and an embarrassing silence occurs until you and your classmate mumble an affirmative. The fact that your streak of not talking ended brings the awkwardness back again, as you decide whether or not you’ve become obligated to say “hello.”
Any awkwardness experienced in the halls or in the classroom is far surpassed by a visit to another school. I remember the first Michigan-Michigan State weekend I experienced. It was the first time I had seen most of my classmates from high school since graduation and everyone was trying to prove how much they had changed.
The sight of the girl that never talked dancing on a table and the class hot girl and the class geek making out were more than enough to make me feel uncomfortable and never want to see anyone from my high school again. Ever.
In order to help others avoid this common annoyance, I’m willing to impart what I have learned in these situations to those who also wish to steer clear of unnecessary awkwardness:
Don’t be afraid to walk by
What are they going to do if you ignore them? Tell a teacher? Rat you out to a mutual friend? It’s not like you want to talk to them in the future, anyway. Odds are that they, too, just want to pass by, so don’t disappoint.
Never initiate the hello
If you don’t want to say “hello” the next time, don’t say “hello” the first time. By showing the person that you are interested enough to say “hello,” this suggests that the next time, in addition to hello, you will want to know what’s new, and the next time what they’re majoring in, and so on and so on.
Have an excuse ready
If you are unable to avoid the initial contact, be sure to have an excuse available for why you need to go. This is very simple and needs to be nothing more than an “I’m in a really big hurry.” The option of adding what it is you are in a hurry for is available and is a toss-up whether or not to employ it.
Have a topic ready
This is an excellent strategy and can be used without seeming annoyed or uninterested. Simply think of someone you both knew back home and talk about what they are up to these days. Not only will you not have to reveal what is new with you, but you will also avoid having to hear what is new with them.
Scream and jump out the nearest window
If you are lucky enough to be Homer Simpson.
If Adam sees you around campus, he’ll turn and walk the other way. Therefore, if you’re a old classmate and want to talk to him, you’ll have to e-mail him at email@example.com.