Although it happens every day, it’s profoundly startling to realize that you recognize a person that you may see. And yes, through a puffy Canada Goose jacket, a scarf and a Balaclava, that person is looking right back at you. G-wiz, this is awkward—should you wave? Smile? Frown?
This is a points-based system that determines how to act after making eye contact with someone you recognize—let’s call him or her Person “A”. Add or subtract points as you read each step; then, compare your sum to the rubric at the end to determine your least cringe-worthy next move.
1. You know/don’t know A’s name.
Knowing a name helps, but it isn’t everything. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with an anonymous “hey, how’s it going?”
2. You met during Orientation Week and haven’t spoken since.
Avoid small talk from hell! The inevitable end of your cursed conversation: “We should meet up sometime—you free for lunch tomorrow?”
3. You had two cups of coffee two hours ago and your bladder is about to explode.
According to human biology, finding a public bathroom or adequate patch of grass is priority number one right now.
4. You know that A’s profile picture has 130 likes in two days, a 42 percent decrease in the “rate of like” of A’s last picture.
This is definitely a one-sided Facebook obsession. You will let your creepiness show in a conversation.
5. You are intoxicated.
You charming dog, you can say ANYTHING and A will eat it up!
6. You find yourself cringing at the thought of yet another social interaction.
Go watch The Daily Show online, dude. Try meeting a new friend next week.
7. A is hotter than a 6 on a 1-10 scale.
Fairly self-explanatory, but just in case: hot acquaintance=better reputation=better friends=better alumni connections=better salary=unwavering long-term happiness
8. You drunkenly met at a party and spoke for half an hour.
While this is not adequate basis to start a conversation with someone, being able to bring up A’s spring break trip would certainly grease the wheels of a hypothetical chat.
9. You have hooked up with A.
If you were smooth enough last Friday night, you’re probably smooth enough to pull off a non-awkward interaction.
10. You have hooked up with A, but A hasn’t responded to your texts and publicly calls that one night with you “like my Watergate scandal.”
This might surprise you, but A is not simply playing hard to get—while Nixon was undoubtedly hung like a moose, comparisons to him are generally not ideal.
11. It’s below 10 degrees outside.
Avoiding the stinging pain of ignoring “A” is not worth absorbing the stinging pain of cold air on your face.
12. You were in a class with A last year and you two small-talked every day before lectures.
What the fuck are you going to talk about now? The final exam?
13. It’s before 10 AM.
The likelihood that both parties in a conversation could be charming and witty before 10 is about three percent. Note: If #13 and #5 are true, yikes! Take the rest of the day off.
14. You’re feeling charming, witty, and confident in your physical appearance.
Again, see number 5.
Now, compare your sum to this rubric:
- <-5: Perhaps even eye contact with A is too awkward. Appropriate move: Dart eyes away or pretend to read a text message.
- -5-0: A is irrelevant to your life, and vice-versa. Continue staring at A, maybe even glare, because it doesn’t really matter how you’re perceived, anyway.
- 0-9 points: A is definitely an acquaintance, but you probably don’t have a small-talk type of relationship. Create a distraction, like tying your shoe or closing your eyes like you’re about to sneeze.
- 10-20 points: This is a tricky middle-ground. Not acknowledging “A” is definitely not the move, but it’s easy to make a dad-at-an-ethnic-restaurant move which is uncomfortably enthusiastic. Give a half-nod or a small wave; it’s also encouraged, though not mandatory, to smile.
- 20-29 points: Yell a vocal greeting while walking; maybe approach “A” and give a quick bro-shake or hug.
- 29-39 points: Smile with teeth, stop and approach A. Engage with friendly-to-sensual hug for two seconds and then make some solid small talk.
- >39.4 points: If you got a total this high, you’ve got a fucked up relationship with A. Figure out your relationship with A.
Follow these steps and together, let’s make this world…um…less awkward? Is that a good way to end this? Bye.