Situation #5 – Bitching

12 04 2008

Bitching is the Starbucks of conversation. It is everywhere and, when nobody can think of something better, its the default. Bitching (or, less awkwardly referred to as ‘complainng’) is a sure-fire way to bond with a new friend or colleague. Take the following example:

You “So, whats you opinion on babies?”

Them ” They look like little velociraptors. Babies can’t be trusted”

You “I agree!”

End result of the above conversation : a bond built in the bitch.

So, how can this turn awkward? You bitch about something that, surprise, is about them.

Take this situation:

You ” Seriously, I hate it when people wear fake glasses. I mean, if you can see perfectly, you should not mock others who can’t see by wearing glasses with no lenses. Douchebags.”

Them: ” I wear fake glasses. I AM wearing fake glasses”


The best method to avoid the inevitable awkwardness is to simply ask questions regarding the persons answer with extreme enthusiasm and sprinkled with compliments.

In the above example, “Really, they look so real! You even have that visually-challenged squint down! So as a leader in hipster-ness, whats you take on chunky frames versus wire frames? ”

Or, a riskier approach,just start bitching about a topic related to your original bitch. “Seriously, glasses are so expensive AND optometrist appointments are so expensive. Those dudes aren’t even real doctors. WTF?”


Situation #4: The Wait

7 04 2008

Much of our life is spent waiting. Lets be real. This includes waiting for the dentist, waiting for a movie to start, or waiting for that delicious three-cheese pizza pop to thaw. Where this may become awkward is if we must wait. In public. With nothing to do. The problem is that the social world refuses to acknowledge the fact that people spend most of their time waiting, not producing or consuming or doing. In short, its weird if you aren’t doing anything but sitting somewhere in public.


To avoid this awkwardness of sitting and doing nothing you have some options. One option is to start smoking. Your are doing something, congratulations, you are no longer awkwardly sitting /standing / waiting in public. Another option is to ensure that you have a book around to pretend-read. To make this most effective, try to make sure the book written by Nietzsche, or some other hard to pronounce philosopher. This will make it less noticeable if you don’t flip the page very often. If you don’t have a book, perhaps try reading the ingredients found in your grape juice or bag of Doritos. Whoa, that’s some tasty Disodium Guarhylate! But, a foolproof method used often by JSA (journal of social awkwardness) contributors is the fake text. As you wait, act as if you just received a text. Pretend to read this text, slightly amused, and then reply to this non-text with a smirk on your face. This last step, the fake reply could be done by pressing random buttons, playing a game on your cellphone (warning: turn your phone on mute), or, to most closely simulate sending a text message, you can send yourself a text that is really the lyrics to your favorite Rod Stewart Song.

There, now, you appear to be doing something, avoiding awkwardness, and you appear popular. People like you! They text you!

Situation #3: The bus stop

5 04 2008

There you are, waiting for the bus/subway/streetcar, looking forward to taking your seat so that you can get back into that great book you’re reading. And then out of the corner of your eye, you spot an acquaintance; someone you know well enough to exchange pleasantries with, but not someone with whom you have enough to talk about for the length of an entire bus ride. Once you make eye contact, it’s all over. Now you have to say hello. A “how are you?” is only polite. And then before you know it, you’ve entered into a binding social contract, by which you are obligated to make pleasantly boring and effortful chit chat for the duration of the trip. “I hope the bus gets here soon.” “Do you take this route often?” You can forget about that book of yours. And leave your iPod in your pocket; there are pressing weather patterns to discuss!

Now, I don’t want you to get the impression that we here at the JSA are against small talk. On the contrary, we’re big advocates of small talk when it comes to elevators and water coolers – places where small talk is all that the situation allows. But being forced to extend such banal topics for longer than ten minutes is a pain that no one should have to endure. That’s why the JSA has several suggestions about what to do when you’re faced with the prospect of a lengthy discussion on just how soon you can expect spring to arrive. Meteorological experts may wish to skip this entry.


  1. Preventative measures

As with many things in life, it turns out that an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. Your first line of attack against social awkwardness is to avoid social situations. Remember, dear Reader, no interaction with people means no *awkward* interaction. So if you are lucky enough to catch sight of your acquaintance before he/she sees you, be wise and recognize this situation for the blessing that it is. Hang back and wait for the next bus. Yes, this means sacrificing some of your time, but when faced with a choice between 30 minutes of meteorological intrigue and 50 minutes with a great book, the decision is obvious. J.D. Salinger will thank you later.

If waiting for the next bus is not an option, your next line of defense is to avoid eye contact at all costs. Now is a great time to become particularly engrossed in your book. No book? The bus schedule can make for some great reading material when you’re in a bind. Have you checked your watch recently? Like, within-the-last-ten-seconds recently? Do you have your keys with you? Better rifle through the contents of your bag just to be sure.

  1. Form an exit strategy

You’ve failed to avoid eye contact and now you’ve said hello. Don’t panic. Or better yet, DO panic. Because you suddenly remember that you’ve forgotten something important. Run home to feed your dog. Go get those documents that you need to work on tonight. Pick up that milk you promised to bring for your wife. Be creative. Just not too creative. That looks suspicious.

What if you’re already sitting comfortably on the bus and your acquaintance gets on and has you cornered? Now’s the time to invent an errand. The particular errand you have to run will depend largely on the commercial options along your route. But you don’t have to be too specific anyway. A simple “Oh, I have to get off here to do some errands” will do. We realize that this will cost you an extra bus fare, but in the eyes of the JSA, three dollars is a small price to pay in order to avoid a game of twenty questions when you could care less about the answers.

Situation #2: The elevator

4 04 2008

What should you do when you’re caught in an elevator with someone who hasn’t mastered the fine art of elevator chit-chat and insists on asking you questions that are either too personal or whose answers will take more than nine floors to explain?


As a general principle, elevator conversation should be confined to relatively uncontroversial topics which can be discussed to a satisfying depth in the minutes it takes to travel between floors. Such topics include but are not limited to the weather, matters related to the building in which the elevator is located, major sporting events, and the local sports team’s run up to the playoffs.

Should you find yourself in the company of someone who wishes to discuss a topic that is either too personal, controversial, or lengthy for the given elevator ride, fear not, dear Reader, for you have options!

  1. Respond to the questions that your fellow elevator rider *should* be asking, not the ones that he/she actually asks.

Sample dialogue:

Awkward elevator rider: So, you look like someone who is pro-life, right?

You: I can’t wait for the rain to stop either!

  1. Answer all questions with way more personal information than your fellow elevator rider ever wanted to know about you.

Sample dialogue:

Awkward elevator rider: So, where are you off to at this time of night?

You: Oh, just heading to the drug store to pick up something for my yeast infection. This is the worst one I’ve ever had. You know how in the commercials they talk about that “cottage cheese-like discharge”? I never really knew what they were talking about until now. Except of course, it’s way less appetizing than cottage cheese. And the smell….

Situation #1: The turnaround

4 04 2008

silly_walk.jpgHave you even found yourself casually walking down the street, hallway, or other pathway-type fixtures when *gasp* you suddenly realize that you are walking in the opposite direction that you need to be walking in? If you decide to simply turn around and start walking, this will appear awkward and put much of the social world ill at ease. Alas, we have a solution for this awkward situation!

Awkward-avoiding Solution: In this circumstance when you have realized that you do indeed need to turn around, the best course of action to take is to:

1. Casually look at your watch, then give a ‘surprised’ look, possibly accompanied with a high pitched “oh” (n.b. high pitched noises often signify something important, which is crucial for this situation), turn around and, at the very least, double your walking speed back in the direction needed. One aspect that is vital to remember in this situation is that you must have an “I am important” look on your face while performing this act. This creates reason for your change in walking course, which diminishes any awkwardness and it also will make people believe you are, in fact, an important person with an important looking face.

2. In situations in which you are not wearing a watch, you can replace the casual watch glance with some thoughtful and slightly confused glances upward, making the social world believe you are thinking about something. Something confusing and important. You may want to add some chin stroking for an added philosophical appearance. After this, then you may continue with the surprised look as mentioned above.

Doesn’t the word awkward look awkward?

3 04 2008

We are a couple of reluctant grad students who work in an asbestos-filled basement at a university that shall remain unnamed. Our lifestyle affords us much free time to contemplate the frivolous aspects of life. Since our tearaway-business suit idea did not take off with investors, we’ve decided to devote our free time to exploring the most awkward aspects of human interaction. Our close proximity to academics, combined with our reluctance to join their ranks, and our general surliness makes us well-positioned to give advice on how to handle whatever socially awkard situations life throws your way.