Have you ever had a really awkward encounter with someone you’re quite close to? Have you ever seen someone “out of context” and it made your brain feel all funny and mushy and you couldn’t speak like an edu-macated homo-sapien? An occurrence like this happened to me just the other day with my friend Annie (She makes an appearance in this post in Purple italics).
I like to think I’m a fairly normal person, I may not be Mrs. Schmoozy Small Talk Champion, but I can generally hold my own in conversations…unless it’s with someone I know very well, in the middle of a store, apparently.
I was out shopping with my mother and Sister-in-Law at our sort-of local Bed, Bath and Beyond. And boy, let me tell you, it was Beyond, like the farthest reaches of space when I ran into one of my closest friends in a place she had reasonably no reason to be, nor had I on a Saturday afternoon.
I had a pretty full schedule one Saturday, 2 client meetings with some down time in between, and then a dinner date with one of my closest friends and her husband. During my between-meeting-down-time, I made a pit stop at the local BB&B to take advantage of a 30% discount.
There I was stepping out of an aisle when I accidentally cut someone off. I looked at her, noted briefly that I was being an ass by cutting her off and then turned to face the other direction and then it hit me, this person I just cut off was someone I know. Someone I know quite well. In fact, you could say we’re besties. I whipped back around to face her and was like….”OH Hi?!!?!!”
I had picked up my 2 items (a new comforter and a Kitchen Aid mixer attachment – and ice cream maker) and was making my way awkwardly through the store to the checkout (I hadn’t bothered with a cart, because who knew ice cream mixer attachments were ginormous!?) As I had a very limited window of time to purchase my items and get to my next appointment, I was focused. I was on a mission. Items in hand, heading to checkout. When suddenly someone vaguely familiar stepped in front of me as she came out of an aisle.
She was completely out of context, as was I for her. We both stared at each other: dumbfounded. Plus it was made even stranger by the fact that we were going to dinner with our husbands that very night, so had every expectation of seeing each other, but not until LATER at the dinner hour. Seeing each other before that designated hour was unacceptable, strange and alien.
I stopped short and looked at her as she apologized for cutting me off. I think I stared at her for a few seconds before registering that I KNOW this person. Not in an “I think I’ve seen you at the yoga studio before,” kind of way, but in a “you know all of my deepest secrets” sort of way. Yet I could not reconcile seeing this person in this location at this time. I was on a MISSION! I had a SCHEDULE! Seeing a friend was not on my schedule. And would running into her now thwart my mission to get to my client’s house on time? All of these things ran through my brain as I stood there and stared at her.
It was like seeing her for the first time. I’m looking at her, she’s looking at me. We’re both thinking….oh yeah…you seem familiar, but I feel like at the same time I don’t know you at all and I need to study you. Like really take a good look. Is that what you look like?? And at the same time that I’m staring at you with my mouth hanging open, I can’t think of one good thing to say to you.
We’re both just staring at each other now and it was like I had forgotten all of my words. I couldn’t even think of what to say. In my brain I noted a cute bag that she had, but in my befuddled state, I couldn’t even lead with something as basic as “cute bag!” Nope. I said something really clever, along the lines of “what are you doing here?”
My friend, was like “oh, heyyyy, what are you doing here?”
It may have been “what are YOU doing here?” Or “what are you doing HERE?” Any of which are not particularly clever or friendly. Ugh. Also – what the hell did I think she was doing there, in a store? Seems like the answer should have been pretty obvious.
I was all like, “Uhhh…you know…shopping and my SIL needs to buy something. Oh and I wanted to see if they had this eye lash curler I like.”
Yes. Shopping. Obviously. Why did I ask that? God. What is wrong with me? Now I’m hung up on my blatant awkwardness and am just fumbling for words and frantically thinking “does she notice that I feel awkward? Why am I at a loss of things to say to her?”
Ummm…awkward. So then I was like, “What are you doing?” Attempting to make eye contact, scuffing my shoe on the floor. Fidgeting.
Oh god. She looked directly at me. What do I do? Do I smile? Do I say something clever? Shit. Think of something clever to say…
Clearly, she was shopping and she was holding 2 large items that were kind of awkward to hold for as long as we talked. And it was pretty obvious that she had been booking her way toward the checkout and I was holding her up en-route.
Answer her question, idiot! Don’t just stand here staring at her. Oh shit, it’s been too long and I haven’t answered her. Shit. Is it weird if I answer now, after this long pause? Crap. Now it’s even longer…SAYSOMETHING!!
She was like, “Oh, uh…my mom works here so I’m getting a friends and family discount. I just picked out this bed spread and this ice cream maker attachment for our kitchen aid mixer.”
Nailed it. Brilliant and witty. You’re welcome. Ball’s in your court, V. Beat THAT.
I was all like, “Wow, that’s nice. Is M going to make Ice Cream?”
Um yes. What the hell else is he going to do with an ice cream maker? God. Is she as uncomfortable as I am? Why can’t I think of anything coherent to say? What is wrong with me?
She was like, “Uhhh…yeah I hope so.”
Awkward chuckle. Another brilliant comeback. Why am I talking to her like I’ve never had a conversation with a human before?
Then I was like…”Oh an animal print bedspread, sweet. Don’t you already have that one?”
Please let this be over soon! Can we even be friends after this? How will I explain to my husband that we can’t be friends with this couple anymore. He should probably just change jobs. Maybe we should move. I don’t know how else to get out of this!
She’s all like, “No, this is cheetah and I have a zebra one at home and look at how good this deal is.” Awkwardly attempting to show me the price tag on this large item with both hands full.
Please make it STOP! How long are we going to keep going like this? Am I acting weird because she is, or is she acting weird because I am? Shit. THINK, self. Think of something to say. Stop shifting from one foot to the other, I’m not a toddler who needs to use the bathroom. Crap. I need to use the bathroom. Damn. This ice cream maker is heavy.
I admired it like a good friend. Continued scuffing my feet, hands in pockets, wanting to whistle to make it less awkward, except I can’t whistle.
Ok, she’s staring really hard at my new comforter. At least she’s not looking at me. Shit. Her mom is looking at me like a freak. I had a GREAT conversation with her mom last time I saw her. She knows I can hold an intelligent conversation. Shit. She is judging me. THINK of something normal to say.
Then she said, “You know, I think I’ve had my quota of you for the day so we probably can’t go to dinner tonight.” Awkward laugh, but the truth is obvious.
Nailed it again. Totally normal and not awkward. Well done, self.
I was like…”yeah…I’m sick of you already.” Another awkward laugh, attempt to make eye contact, eyes slide away.
Oh god. Is it over yet? Oh, she just made a joke. Laugh damnit. Laugh! Ok. STOP laughing! Not THAT funny. Is that even my laugh?
She was like, “I totally didn’t expect to see anyone when I came here, so this is weird. It’s like when you go out and you expect to be invisible and go about your business, get shit done but then you see people you know and it’s uncomfortable.”
Ok, I just put it out there. This is weird. Acknowledge it.
Obviously we both wanted to end the conversation, post haste, but the momentary silence was awkward after this truth telling, so it had to be filled with something. Words or something. Both of our brains were racing, what to say, what to say???!!
Um. Ok what now. I think we’ve had said all the words now. Time to wrap it up. What else could we possibly talk about? Oh, we’re still standing here. Ok, I should look at my feet. Oh, wait, brilliant idea: she’s asked me some questions. My turn to ask questions.
So she was like, “Are you guys going to lunch or something?” to my SIL and mother.
Good call on mixing it up. Bring in the two witnesses to this friendship travesty. They’ll be able to salvage this terrible moment.
I was like…”No we can’t cause my SIL has to get home by 2:00 and she lives far away.”
Oh, shit. SHE answered for them. Way to foil my plan, V. Now what do I say. Clearly I don’t know how to talk to my bestie. What else can I say. What words haven’t I said yet?
She was like, “Oh.” Another awkward pause. I guess we’re not good at casual shooting the shit conversation with each other.
I don’t think we’ve ever had a small talk conversation. I didn’t know it would be this painful to do so. Thank god we haven’t made the mistake of trying to do this before!
And then, in an awkward way, we somehow ended the conversation with byes and see you laters and continued shopping. When we saw each other again from afar in the check out, it was so weird. I was like…”good to see you!” and I was thinking, are you really my friend? It’s like I’ve never seen you before because I saw you where I didn’t expect you. It was just like she was some casual acquaintance and she said the same to me, Good to see you, etc, etc, platitudes etc… and her mom was there and I told her mom that our quota for each other for the day was maxed out with another uncomfortable chuckle. She was like…”Oh I hope not!”
Oh thank god. Someone ended this. I think I blacked out. I have no idea how, but it’s over. They’re walking away. Nice. Now I can make my escape. Quick. Run. NO don’t run. Walk like a normal person. Just get OUT of here!
But our quota for awkwardness for the day, definitely was maxed out. What is it about seeing people out? I like it when you see someone you know and you both sort of seem to agree to ignore each other as if you didn’t notice that you know each other. That’s the best thing. I sometimes feel bad like I’m being an ass for not saying hello, but I like to be invisible too when I shop. I’m minding my own business, I don’t expect to see or talk to anyone and if forced to, it will be awkward and strange. How many times have you bumped into someone at the grocery store or wherever and it’s been soooooo weird. I usually try to hide. In this case, I could not hide. We were FACE TO FACE!! We had to acknowledge each other.
Needless to say, we finally parted ways and got away from each other and the laughable awkwardness. Both of us were breathing a sigh of relief to be away from the other. And also both of us were probably going over the conversation and wondering what the hell went wrong?! We know each other! How could a conversation between us be so weird?! I guess it felt wrong to just launch into our deeper conversations and we had nothing else to say.
When we saw each other for dinner, it was like nothing had ever happened and there had never been any awkwardness and we launched into our regular banter and talk. I just hope to God I never see her unexpectedly again and I’m sure she feels the same way. Seeing your good friends out and about is worse than seeing strangers. It’s like you don’t even know each other at all. And you feel all weird, like what can you say? You forget all your recent emails and interactions, you just stand there like a dumb idiot making stupid filler conversation wanting to run away, yet being forced to politely stay and chat as if nothing uncomfortable is going on.
Thank god dinner was totally normal. I don’t have to move. We can still be friends. That’s a relief. If I ever run into her in a random place again, my plan is to reference this ridiculous encounter. Hopefully that will break the ice and we can at least be awkward ABOUT being awkward. Oh shit, what if my brain freezes again and I can’t even remember that I’m planning on referencing this disaster…shit. Well, I guess the only hope for saving this friendship is to NEVER see each other unexpectedly again. So, V, if you ever think you catch a glimpse of me ducking down an aisle or putting on a hat and big sunglasses in the accessories department, just ignore me and count your blessings you don’t have to suffer through another encounter like this again! 🙂
Meanwhile during this daring encounter, my mom and SIL were just standing there watching and probably thought we were weird. Like are these people really friends? They claim they are but….Nah, they can’t be, look how weird they are with each other. They probably think I’m socially awkward. Truth. Maybe I am? hahaha.
I had to write this up because we got together with our other good friend and told her the story and she thought it was hilarious. Which it is. The awkwardness was glorious and epic! Let’s just hope it never happens again. Please God.