Social Traps

Thursday, August 27, 2009

There are times when you see someone coming your way and you'd rather not see them, be seen by them, greet them or talk to them at all. In cases like these, you could just avoid the person.

If you see the person in a corridor, you could take the stairs, take a u-turn and go another direction, bow down to hide your face, turn your head the other way as if you had a stiff neck, or if you have the guts and ability, look the person straight in the eye in an emotionless state (dedma).

It's not that easy to avoid someone when you're in an escalator or an elevator. That's why I call these 2: social traps. You'll just have to endure being with the person you're avoiding because you have no complete control over the machine you're taking.

When you're in an escalator, you are bound to see everyone at the opposite side. And if you're already on the escalator, there's no turning back. You could always go back and walk double time. But that would catch more attention. Plus, if you don't have the agility, by the time you've jumped off, chances are, the person you're avoiding just stepped down from the other side. The best way is simply to look away or hold a huge newspaper in front of you.

Elevators offer a different awkward situation, especially if you and the person you're avoiding are the two last people left inside. What's difficult about this situation is that you have very limited options. Due to the elevator's size, there's no way to distance yourself from the other person. There's not much room to look away and you're bound to get closer against your will when you have to press the floor on the elevator panel. In addition, and depending on how many floors both of you are going to, the torture ride must be endured anywhere from 10 seconds (fast elevators going up or down only 1 floor) to 3 minutes (old buildings with super slow elevators and it stops on every floor with no one getting inside).

Just how can you avoid someone in an elevator ? Facing the other way looks stupid. It's like riding a rollercoaster and facing the back. If the elevator had other people, you could manuever your way to hide beside or behind someone. If you're really desperate, you could get off the next floor and wait it out or take the stairs.

A worst case scenario is you're in an elevator with the person you're avoiding and you and the person are the only two people inside. Things keep awkwardly quiet. You start to perspire in anxiety and suddenly, the worst thing you were hoping wouldn't happen, happens. The person makes an initiative to talk to you. Do you want to acknowledge ? Hell no ! You've been avoiding this person. Ignoring the acknowledgement would only make the person think you didn't hear it well. But in an close-to-empty elevator with only the two of you in complete silence (unless there's elevator music but that's a at minimal volume), it's very hard to convince the person you didn't hear them (unless your tone-deaf).

So what do you do ?

You could place earphones on your ears. Whether you're actually listening to music or not isn't important. In this case, it tells the other person you may not have heard them. But that may also just make the situation worse, especially if instead of talking to you, the person taps you to signal they're talking to you.

So what do you do then ?

You could pretend you're on the phone with someone but would have to constantly talk so the person wouldn't have any chance at all to butt-in and have social time with you. In this case, you're not granting the person any chat time by pretending to be talking with someone else. And if you're going up several floors, you'll need to know how to talk constantly without pause.

So what's the best thing to do ?

Don't take these social traps if you have a hunch you'll be caught in an unforeseen and awkward situation. But then again, how do you know when these things happen ? They just do. So just be prepared how to handle them. And if I were you, I'd take the stairs.

But that's just me.

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