Lies and Untruths

Gillette, Peter

So we all know that our campus is small, and with enrollment rising, it gets smaller by the year. That is, there is, naturally, less personal space available to each student.
As I look back on my four-plus years at good old Larry U., I remember fondly those times during my freshman year when I could walk between Briggs and Science Hall and behind Ormsby without seeing a soul. Ah, those were the days, when Hiett Hall was yet a maniacal plan within Wacky Warch’s brain, and not yet the $13 million depository for jocks’ urine and solid waste that it has since become.
I would choose those routes, though, between Ormsby and the great hill of nothingness, so I wouldn’t run into people. You see, I’m a bit neurotic, so naturally, running into people causes me problems:
Should I acknowledge him/her? If so, how? Should I say “hi”? Should I say hi and then their name? What if I get their name wrong? Maybe I should wave. But what if they don’t wave? I should nod my head. But not getting a nod back would invalidate me as a human being. Maybe he/she will just stare straight ahead and try to ignore whatever it is I’m doing.
By this point within my neurotic soliloquy, I would inevitably realize that the person had passed me, and I was too lost within myself to even notice whether they had said hello, remembered my name, waved, nodded, or ignored me. There might be a lesson in this:
The best defense against a brief, possibly awkward interpersonal campus sidewalk encounter is complete and utter self-absorption.
I realized that if people think you are crazy, they will try to be polite and not stare. That is why it is smart to mutter to yourself, sing to yourself, or laugh inexplicably whenever you suspect an acquaintance, such as Kate Ostler, may walk around the corner.
The problem with self-absorption, though, is that then you seem like the rude one; or perhaps you are the rude one. Never fear. Self-absorption can be achieved through more organic means; namely, the use of props.
My RLA freshman year called me “Headphone Guy,” and everyone knows a Headphone Guy. Well, I’m too cheap to get an iPod, and I’d probably just break it like I broke my Discman, but when I know I may have to avoid someone – for instance, a professor whose office door is always open – I keep a pair with me, the end going into my pocket.
Then I look like I’m concentrating really, really hard. Like, this music is deep, man.
I have found, though, that the cell phone is the new headphones. Sometimes I like to call my voice mail and then act like I’m in a conversation … and I’ll make sure the conversation makes no sense whatsoever. Then folks will think I’m crazy and I kill two birds with one stone:
“Lucinda’s? At Midnight? Hmm … Well, I am not sure if the nuns can make it … Horses? Horses? Nah, not this time. Oh, steak fries? … No, I won’t be the cornerback this time … yeah, goalie. Aiight, I’m out.”
There will come a time, though, when someone you sort of know walks up to you and you are sans cell phone or headphones, pride will keep you from acting crazy, and looking straight ahead just feels wrong.
For those times, be sure to perfect the ambiguous half-wave/hand-running-through-your-hair. You may not seem too sure of yourself, but at least you’ll be well groomed.