Probably one of the worst experiences you can have is unexpectedly seeing someone in public. I mean, social interaction is just not something to be cavalier about. It’s something that needs to be well-thought-out and carefully constructed. Thankfully I’m totally not antisocial and I can easily interact with anyone without having to go off a script based off of the teachings of Will Smith in Hitch that I’ve memorized, so I’m here to help.
Let’s first talk about the different types of people you may encounter. There are people who, while still unfortunate, are not “bad” to run into. These types of people are generally referred to as “friends.” Luckily, since they’re your friends they (hopefully) are aware of your shitty social skills, and will thus limit the experience. A greeting, few clarifying questions about why you happen to be where you are, and they’re on their way. Again, this is all based on what I’ve seen other people do, not personal experience. Me talk good with people. Can’t stress that enough.
Then there’s running into a work-friend. Sure, there’s more expectation to capably handle casual conversation. But this isn’t an issue since there’s a plethora of work topics to talk about. This is generally referred to as “bitching about work.” And if talking about how much work sucks is tricky for you, just broach the topic of work suckiness and let your compadre take the reigns. The only risk with this strategy is that he or she begins rambling. If that happens, just pretend like you ate some questionable beef jerky and you need to leave before you create a perfect-scale replica of Niagara Falls in your pants (where the edge of the falls is your anu — ah, you get it).
The absolute worst type of person to encounter is the acquaintance. The person you’ve possibly shared a laugh with, but whose stance on the merit of the film Saving Silverman is unknown (JK obviously everyone knows that movie is a timeless masterpiece). Your entire relationship with these types of people is casual, so how in the hell are you supposed to talk about something that doesn’t fall in the purview of the Three Standard Casual Convo Topics — Weather, That Sports Thing That Happened, Outfit? Here’s how you handle this (or any) other random meetup:
- Avoid at all costs — Walk around the block instead of down it to avoid talking to someone you recognize. Save yourself the potential embarrassment of being awkward. Besides, you should probably be getting more exercise anyway. Your doctor told you so.
- Notice early, acknowledge late — Always keep a vigilant eye for people you know. The earlier you spot someone the more time you have to prepare. That being said, you must, at all costs, NOT let someone see that you recognized them. Nothing is worse than making the mutual acknowledgement of each other when you’re too far apart to talk. Because now you’re just walking towards each other, looking at one another, with awkward smiles on your faces ‘cause you’re too far away to hear each other.
- Ignore — Reserved more for the acquaintance, this only works when you’ve done your duty and noticed early. If you see someone you know without them seeing you, you can enact avoidance tactics and play it off as simply missing them. Then if they bring it up, place the blame on them (“Wait, you saw me on the street the other day? Why didn’t you come up and say ‘Hi’?”). I was in a potentially dicey situation where I saw an ex-coworker seated a few tables back at a restaurant while I was on a date. Luckily I spotted her early and craftily avoided looking that way by being completely involved in whatever the hell my date was saying. I mean, someone told me that happened to them once.