Mentally doing away with people from high school only to bump into them getting groceries or at your place of work, is comparable to seeing a clown staring at you from the sewer drain. It’s shocking. It’s scary. And you feel like you might die. Actually, a one-on-one with Pennywise might not be that bad in comparison. Yeah, he may have ripped off Georgie’s arm, but at least he didn’t forget to turn his part of the group project in. What is the appropriate social interaction? If you’re at a job, you’re likely doomed. May angels lead you in. If you’re shopping with an involved parent, they’ll first try to verbally confirm the bystander’s presence. “Is that_____from____?!” You know who it is. If you’re a seasoned pro, you can convince Mom that it’s not in fact ‘XYZ’. But in the moment, most of us falter.
If you happen to be in public alone, the chances of surviving the awkward endeavor increases by a mile. Unless a visual connection occurs, Fitbit-approved legs can carry you to safety. It’s like strength in numbers, but the opposite. Beyond all contemplation, being prepared is key. Which is what you wish you said, back when that individual didn’t turn in their part of the group project. Instead, you just stood aboard that academic sinking ship, plummeting to an icy summer school grave in front of the whole class …while imaginarily being serenaded by a one Celine Dion. I digress.
Instead of guesstimating how to handle this type of surprise on the spot, here are eight real-world ways to handle an unexpected, high school run-in.
8. Suddenly It All Went Dark
Where are you? Why are your eyes so bad? These questions don’t matter. What matters is that your vision is shot, or at least that’s what you’ll say if the opposing force tries to interact with you. You honestly would have stopped to say hi, but you’re near-sighted. Or is it far-sighted?
7. Can You Help Me Find Something?
If you’re in a store, sales associates can be a saving grace. Make up an item that doesn’t exist and ask the nearest person to help you look for it. “Hi there, I’m searching for Meghan McCain Paper Dolls, do you have any in stock?” No one wants to interject amid a conversation in progress. Even if you’re seen, chances are you won’t be interrupted. That’s how they do it in Arizona.
6. Ring, Ring—That’s Showbiz
Time to put those acting chops to the test. If you find yourself trapped in a space where you really can’t stray from like a bus stop, receive a life-altering, imaginary phone call. You are not the father? You found what on her search history? Say loose and have fun, but make it believable, or you’ll never work in this town again.
5. Geography? I Love Geography
Use anything and everything to create a visual obstruction between you and that person. Less nuanced folks may call it “hiding” but that’s primitive. You’re not hiding, you’re just casually ducking down inside of a rack full of women’s negligee, hoping that when you exit, all parties will have migrated elsewhere. For added flavor, if a customer tries to reach for an item while you’re in position, give them an honest take on their choice of garment. It won’t end well, but these things never do.
4. Sacrifice Your Buffer
Got a friend or co-worker with you? Use them as your new muse. Verbally roll every conversational point back to your buffer. Your plus one may have no idea who you’re talking to, but they soon will, after you slowly back away and slip out of view. Good luck being best friends you two, it’s been really real.
3. Freeze, Sucker
In the most loving way, not everyone is so detail-oriented. Sometimes if you stay super still, I mean like head-less mannequin-status still, no one will notice your existence. Seeing an ex-classmate and feeling essentially invisible? Golly-wow, it’s like high school all over again. Minus the cafeteria ladies, but bless them.
2. State of Urgency
If there’s no evading the target, face the music. The second Joe Schmo asks you how you’re doing, use that question as a means to hit the escape button via pressing plans. “I’m great, just taking my cat to get her eyebrows threaded, so I should do that, right now, the cat, she’s waiting on me.” Your excuse won’t resolve the interaction, but it should surely decrease time spent small talking. Be sure to thank your cat and her eyebrows later.
1. Grow Up
Don’t run away, or hide. If you’re seen doing that, it’s hurtful. Those actions are born from anxiety and make you look bad. Just be normal. Say hi first. There is power in leading and tailoring the conversation in a way that makes you feel comfortable. Keep things light but be authentic. You can even state that it’s awkward. The occurrence is probably a little out of the ordinary for the everyone present.
It’s irrelevant whether you had prior disagreements, weren’t close in back in the day, or maybe you were at one point, avoidance solves nothing. I urge you to rely on this method, and embrace all people while facing life head-on. Remember, that almost no one is the same person that were in high school, just don’t bring up the group project.