We Can’t Always Be Friendly

I have a confession to make.

Sometimes when I unexpectedly see someone I know, I put my head down and walk in the other direction.

For all my talk of making new friends, there are times when all I want to do is run an errand and come home. Or to be anonymous and have no one see my no-makeup, frizzy-haired, mismatched-shorts-and-t-shirt self.

It’s not that I would ever be purposefully rude. It’s just that if I didn’t expect to run into any familiar faces, sometimes I’m not in the right mindset. Or the best physical state.

Just this afternoon I ran into a classmate from my high school days in the airport. It was totally random that we would see each other in Logan airport, as we’re both from New York and now he lives in L.A. and I live in Chicago. But we both have family in Cape Cod, so there we were, catching up at the food court. Not having planned to do much socializing during my travels, I wasn’t looking my hottest. But more importantly, I hadn’t really turned “on” yet. Regardless, we caught up briefly, met each others’ significant others, and went our separate ways.

In this case we both spotted each other in the same moment and made eye contact, so there was no avoiding  chit chat. And I’m happy to have talked, because this old friend and I had actually been in touch recently via Facebook. But had it been just about any other old classmate (at least one not in my grade, as was the case here), and I would have very likely stared purposefully at the floor and  gunned for the gate.

All this said, I must give myself a virtual pat on the back for getting better about these hellos in the first place. Back before I started friendsearching, I was most definitely the “pretend not to see you” type. I  kept to myself when on the go. These days I really will talk to anyone, and often the “is it you?” comes out before I’ve consciously decided that I’m going to talk to whichever familiar face crosses my path.

I’ll also say that, in the past, when I’ve chosen to pretend not to see a familiar face, I’m quite sure that said face hasn’t spotted me. That way we avoid awkwardness. Which is, you know, my lifelong goal.

The best was the summer Matt and I first moved to Chicago. I was short on friends and was in between jobs. I was always on the lookout for familiar Northwestern folks, so clearly I noticed when an acquaintance (is there a middle ground between friend and acquaintance? This guy would be it) came ambling toward me when I was out doing errands. Being in need of friends, and having made eye contact, I got ready to say hello. And, just as he approached me, this guy put his head down and started whistling.

Whistling! As if his jovial tune was going to convey that he was so caught up in the blue skies and happy days that he hadn’t seen me directly in his line of sight.

Sure thing.

I wasn’t offended. I was entertained. It struck me as hilarious that this guy resorted to a movie-style whistle to get out of a quick catch up and perhaps some small talk when he had so clearly spotted me. But I couldn’t hold it against him.  I’d been known to try something similar. Sans whistle, of course.

These days I try to go out of my way and say hello, as you really never know who your next BFF will be. But I’m not gonna lie, I’m not perfect. Some days I just hide under some frizzy hair and go on my way.

What about you? Do you ever put your head down and speed up when you recognize someone from afar? Or are you far far friendlier than I?


Filed under The Search

11 responses to “We Can’t Always Be Friendly

  1. Oh, I totally do the duck-and-hide thing sometimes. Usually it’s when I just don’t feel up for a conversation. But I have to say, I’ve never seen anyone avoid contact with a whistle. Hilarious!

    PS: You were at Logan?!

  2. Guilty as charged! Sometimes I just want to run my errand and get home. I’m even more guilty when I know it is a Chatty Cathy. I think we all do it. I also think it is hilarious that you admitted to doing it (most wouldnt).

    Hope you had a fab 4th!

  3. Gretchen

    This happened to my husband and I at the grocery store recently. If I had been by myself I would have done the duck and hide, but my husband made a beeline for a mutual aquaintence…actually chasing him down to start a conversation. This aquaintence is the husband of a woman I worked with who is on my facebook, but other than that we haven’t had much contact since she changed jobs. Sooooo…I had to attempt conversation about their summer trip to NY ( I’d seen photos on FB). My husband did his part by asking what they were up to for the 4th and then we kinda left it at that. The guy called me “sweetie” when we said goodbye which makes me think he’d forgotten my name. I could have done without this conversation, but it seemed to make my husband happy ( difference between an introvert and an extrovert?)

  4. San

    I think we’ve all done it. It’s human. Sometimes, we’re just not in the mood for small talk… especially, when you’re not particularly fond of the person that you would have to “catch up” with.
    When I visit my hometown, I always expect to run into people from school or “back in the days”… and 99% of the time, I am happy to run into somebody and have a short talk. But sometimes, I just turn my head and pretend that I didn’t see them….

  5. Cheryl

    This was SO timely, Rachel!! I just had that happen a week or so ago, and at first, I was offended, but then I decided to give my friend the benefit of the doubt and just conclude that whatever the reason, it probably had little to nothing to do specifically with me…..

  6. Great topic–hit a cord with me! First I thought of the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episode when Larry David dramatizes his dislike of what he thinks is a mandatory “Stop and Chat.” It aired a few years ago, but is still one of my favorites because I can relate a little and my husband can relate a lot! If it’s ever a repeat, try to see it and you will laugh!

    I live in a small cosmopolitan town where I run into people ALL of the time. Mostly, I love the chance to catch up with a friend or even acquaintance, but I also have those “don’t want to be seen” or more appropriately, “shouldn’t be seen moments.” Still, I do feel, as I sense you do too, there are benefits to having the good fortune of the run-in and even the one I’m not in the mood for….
    P.S. I rarely take offense if someone seems to ignore me–as long it’s not his/her regular practice. On the other hand, why can’t we be honest and say, “Great to see you…would love to chat, but I am in a rush….”

  7. Laurie Lee

    Rachel, I just love how your write about the things we all think about and do but never talk about! I’ve done this occasionally. Usually, I’m just not in the mood to chat or I’m at mess at the grocery store after the gym.

    One solution if there’s no way out is to say hello, smile and keep moving.

  8. Marie

    Yes I have done the look the other direction when seeing someone from my past that I’m not in the mood to talk to.

    I’ve also been so absorbed in thought that I said hi to an old friend from high school when I saw her at my gym and kept walking. I didn’t realize until I was in my car that it was an old friend and not a fellow gym goer that I said hi to. Too late and I missed my chance to reconnect.

  9. Another Callie

    Oh, yes, guilty as charged! Once again, it’s so good to know I’m Not The Only One. 🙂

  10. Pingback: Introducing: The Sorta Friend | MWF Seeking BFF

  11. oh my word, I’m totally the person you all are trying to avoid@

    I always stop and at least say hi – sometimes I say “hi, and sorry i can’t chat but I’m late for ____________” but I do acknowledge.

    Otherwise it just feels very awkward and I hate thinking people are ignoring me on purpose!!!

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