Ask a fifth-year: understanding the Lawrence Look-around

Evan Williams

(Drawing by Annie Raccuglia)

Dear Evan,

The other day, I saw two upperclassmen talking in Andrew Commons and one said, “Wait, let me do the Lawrence Look-around.” He then got up, looked around the room, sat down again and started speaking in a hushed voice. What was that all about?


—Secrets! Everywhere!


Hi Secrets! What you saw was “the Lawrence Look-around.” Judging by what followed the Look-around, the upperclassman was employing it for its most common use — gossiping.

Obviously, LU is a small place. It’s a good chance that you know, know of or at least have seen a large portion of the student body. If you tell a secret or spread a rumor, chances are that it will reach half of the campus within a couple of weeks.

In a larger school, if you’re careful, gossiping can be done safely without the subject of the rumor ever knowing you were a part the juicy story’s journey. At Lawrence, however, the small student body means that you can be caught mid-rumor by the very person you are talking about. That is where the Lawrence Look-around comes in handy.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “Evan, gossiping is bad. If you don’t want to get caught, just stop talking about people behind their back.” Well, everybody does it, even when they think they don’t.

But even if you actually don’t gossip, it’s best to know how to protect yourself, because we all know abstinence-only education doesn’t work. So get off your high horse and listen well!

The first step in performing a successful Look-around is to know your surroundings. If you are in New Downer — a.k.a. Downer 2.0, a.k.a. Andrew Commons — then usually, a 360-degree survey of the room will suffice. However, if you are sitting next to the translucent glass in the raised VIP Restricted Section, then it’s important to look over the glass as well.

The Conservatory is especially tricky. The Escher-esque architecture of the basement lobby or the corners of the practice room area can conceal unwanted ears. I personally will get up and walk around these areas to make sure it is safe. To all my Connie readers, you cannot continue to be a music major without learning the Lawrence Look-around! Search your feelings; you know it to be true.

It is also important to announce that you are doing the Lawrence Look-around. I have never seen a Look-around performed without the looker or listener acknowledging that the Look-around has happened, is about to happen or should performed. Doing a Look-around without stating so makes you look paranoid, and as we all know, appearances are everything.

But the Look-around does not only have to be used for gossiping. If you have something important to tell a friend about yourself that you don’t want anyone else to hear — otherwise known as a “secret”— then the Look-around is essential before starting the conversation. But as I mentioned earlier, rumors spread like a California wildfire at LU. If you tell the wrong person, it doesn’t matter how good your Look-around is.

The Look-around can also be employed for visual identification. This is a more advanced technique, so practice is necessary before performing it in public.

Here is how it works. Say you are in New Downer and you and a friend are talking about an attractive person, but you do not know the person or remember their face. Your friend tells you, however, that they are nearby.

If you are facing 6 o’clock and the person you need to see is at 12 o’clock, you should turn your entire upper body around to 3 o’clock and scan the room slowly while turning back to 6 o’clock.

If the person or someone else spots you doing this version of the Look-around, then do not panic. Simply give a small smile and an optional slight nod as you continue to turn.

As you can see, the Lawrence Look-around can be used for good as well as for ill. It is a powerful tool to make sure that “frienemies” don’t turn into enemies. But remember, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

Once you become a Look-around master, you must train padawans and n00bs alike in its ways. That way, we can continue pretending that we all like each other in peace and harmony.