Situation # 32 – The slow walker

29 08 2008

The situation: Walking may seem like just an archaic form of transportation to some, but we here at the JSA know that walking is also a way to strut one’s style. What we mean is that the way one walks is an indication of their true self, the beast within (eat that, Freud). For example, men who walk with an exaggerated arm swing and an overly large step are likely those with issues concerning their southern regions. Think of the walking equivalent of a dude with a hummer…with spinning rims …pumping out some C+C music factory. Or, take those people who don’t walk, rather they glide. Each step seems to be as if they stepped on a bed of marshmallows with a level of grace only equaled by the fancy footwork of Tom Jones. This walk indicates that this person must be involved in the black arts because it is unusual to be as graceful as Tom Jones. Perhaps the most devious and awkward of all walking types is the slow walker. These people, demonstrating their callous character, walk at their own pace with no respect for the appropriately speeded walker behind them. They are likely the same kind of people who eat someone’s jellybeans and leaves only the black ones. One of the most awkward and irritating situations that can occur on a street is getting stuck behind a slow walker. There is evidence that such a situation can actually release anger steam from one’s ears (you know what we are talking about).

So, what do you do when you are stuck behind a slow walker?

The solution:
First, you may say “Oh JSA, are you a bunch of senile old hags? You wrote about this in situation #20, the sidewalk shuffle” To you, we respond, Nay. Slow walkers cannot be handled as street dancers/shufflers. Street dancers are just confused souls. These two are different breeds and must be treated accordingly.

Now, to get around those heartless slow walkers, there are both general and specific solutions. The following solutions may seem cruel hearted, but we are dealing with a malicious population here. The punishment must fit the crime.

For a specific solution, suss out the slower walker. Let’s say the slow walker is a club-goin’, Jay-Z listenin’ dude wearing those weird Kanye West Venetian blind glasses. From behind, pretend to talk on your phone (the ever-awkward-saving tool) and loudly exclaim “Serious! There is a sale on gold necklaces with really big dollar sign emblems? Man, I just past that store a block back!” This will result in your slow walker doing the turnaround and booking it to the location of your mentioned “sale” and, thus, getting out of your way. Tailor this approach for specific slow walkers by deleting ‘gold necklaces with really big dollar sign emblems’ and insert whatever hot commodity fits said slow walker.

A more general approach would be to just yell fire. That’ll get ‘em moving.

Situation #15 – The window seat bathroom run

20 06 2008

The situation: You’re sitting comfortably in the window seat, watching Hugh Grant bat his eyelashes through the in-flight feature, when suddenly that latte you enjoyed in the airport lounge decides to beat a hasty path towards the exit, if you know what we mean. Unfortunately your seatmate has been lulled to sleep by all that British charm. The seatbelt sign is off, and yet you remain captive, a prisoner of someone else’s sleep-wake cycle. How to escape?

The solution:

Step 1. Flail about violently in your seat. If you have a book with you, throw it into your seatmate’s lap.

Step 2. Repeat step 1 as necessary until he/she begins to stir awake. Once you’ve thrown your book, you will have to start throwing other objects, such as headphones, or possibly magazines.

Step 3. Say the following: “Wow! You actually slept through all that turbulence? Well, now that you’re up, I’m going to squeeze past to get to the bathroom.”

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.