This morning I was walking towards a door and a gentleman in front of me decides, when I’m probably about 15 feet away, to hold open the door in turn, causing me to bolt towards the door before an expiry date passes on his kindness and then both of us are forced to look awkwardly at each other.
In said-scenario (which happens often, to everyone)… what do you do? In the past, I’ve mouthed “sorry!” to the kindly door-holder. Sorry? As in, “I’m sorry that I took your kindness for granted by not running to glide through the door just in time before it closes like a drawbridge!” or “sorry I’m tired and hung over and I didn’t feel like running; in this situation me opening the door takes less calories than me running to an already-open door!” Awkward, yes? Endearing, chivalrous, but… awkward.
I’ve been on the receiving end of the door, too so I’m not an innocent party in this he-held, she-held scenario; you’re opening a door on a blustery day and you see someone holding their hat, squinting the cold out of the whites of their eyes, and you say to yourself, “I should be nice to this person”; you hold the door open for them and it occurs to you at that moment that this person is an amazing distance away. And in fact, their eyes are so squinted that maybe they don’t, or won’t, even see your random act of kindness in the frosted-over distance. And so you take another look at them and then let the door go and continue on your way.
But – what if they DID see you?! What if they saw you hold the door for a moment, look back at them and then close it. This reflects poorly on you, right? ‘Well I WAS going to hold the door but then I turned around and saw your ugly face and decided, weighing the options, it’s just too cold for that bullshit.’ Ouch, right? And who’s ever felt a little ounce of decreased self-esteem when this happens to you?
Door-holding: with great power comes great responsibility.
Or… you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. And it’s always you who ends up feeling awkward.
Other scenarios where this type of unsolicited awkwardness occurs.
You order a wrap. You’re standing there waiting for the wrap, anticipating the crispy chicken and grated cheddar; it’s day-making, this wrap. Depending on how bad your morning has been, perhaps even life-altering. And then the cook calls out, “crispy chicken wrap!” and you take it. But a stranger in front of you who you haven’t even noticed suddenly snatches it from you and says, “actually, that’s mine – sorry!”
Does the fact that they apologized make this better or worse? They were polite, sure… they took your feelings into account and presented to you, the gentle consolation prize of a mere apology, when all you really wanted to do was just take the fucking wrap. I mean, how much longer would the next crispy chicken wrap take anyways? Five minutes? Could you not wait another FIVE minutes? Maybe crispy chicken wraps should be on a first-come, first-served basis. Also… is it just me, or was the cook looking RIGHT AT ME when he called out my order?
Not your fault, either way. The stranger is impatient and un-noticeable in his gray sweater, glasses and jeans. Unassuming and short. Or else he was talking to his group of friends and didn’t notice the order being called until something snapped in his brain, or he has instantaneous wrap-dar. Either way… you’re in a sudden position of thievery. And you did nothing wrong. You didn’t intentionally say, “hey – that guy’s a dick for no reason. I’m SO stealing whatever he ordered – bonus if he ordered the same thing I did… oh, he did! Well what a happy accident!”
And the cook… what’s his deal anyway? If you’re going to look at someone right in the face, clearly… you’ve forgotten the person ahead in line. And should that person not want to be forgotten, maybe trade the gray sweater for hot pink dreads. No one will ever forget which latte you ordered ever again. Peg-word method… “Gingerbread latte? Pink dreads.”
One more awkward situation that you happen to wander into is when someone makes a horrible joke AT you, not WITH you – and you somehow have to come up with something witty to combat it. Which, no matter how witty you are, never happens.
For instance: one time I was at the Greyhound station waiting for a bus with my mom (she was getting on the bus this time, not me). And the driver came up to us and said, “are you going on the 12:45 that runs through Edson, Hinton and Jasper?”
“Yup,” she replied with confidence.
“That bus has been cancelled today,” he said.
“Oh – what? But I just bought a ticket!” my mom replied. It’s true; I was there.
“Yup, the route’s been cancelled.”
My mom and I looked at each other; she wasn’t in a hurry so it’s not like that was the bus she NEEDED to take; but I mean, talk about an inconvenience—her bag was all packed, she was waiting in that dingy God-forsaken station…
“Huh huh, just kidding!” the driver replied.
First of all… not funny. A joke along the lines of “this route’s cancelled; just kidding! No it’s not!” doesn’t really accomplish anything. Were you anticipating a thrill out of a split second of a stranger’s panic? Because neither of us were panicked. Did you think you would abuse the authority of your blue-grey uniform with an embroidered patch with a dog on it? Because there are better (albeit, creepier and more illegal) ways to do so.
And then it puts the person on the receiving end of this “hilarious joke” in a position to have to say something.
“You got me!” my mom said.
That was the best we could do in a moment of bewilderment.
This was truly the flattest practical joke I’ve ever come across in my life. Well, almost.
Awkward situations are all well and good when you hold the power of them… then all the blame falls on you. But just as easily, and in fact, MORE easily, you can find yourself in a place where someone else has made you feel like you either did something wrong, or you have to enter, un-armed I should add, a battle of wits; and usually in the case of the latter, you are under ordinary circumstances, far wittier than the person who put you in your place.