I’m not an awkward person–really. I can hold a conversation nicely (I think), and have no problem meeting new people or being thrown into new situations. Having said that, it’s pretty easy for me to look back over my 3 years at Cornell, and think of some awkward scenarios that I’ve been in, that make me cringe at the thought of ‘em. Let me rattle them off:
- The meatball incident! Here’s the scene: I’m invited to a meal with a professor, along with 6-7 other students, to discuss his field of study, and life in general. Meatball subs are being served in the dining hall, and I helped myself to 1-2 sandwiches as I was hungry. Just as the meal’s starting, and the professor begins talking, I open my mouth, bite into the sub…and manage to squirt a meatball out of the sub. This might’ve been okay, had it landed on the plate, but no–it plopped right onto the table. And, as luck would have it, the table was on a slight slant. So: as the professor has begun speaking, all I can focus on is this damn meatball that’s rolling away from me at a slowly increasing speed. Questions flooded my mind about how to proceed: Do I ignore it? Do I lunge for the meatball to put an end to this madness? Did the professor notice my excellent meatball projectile skills? (Keep in mind, this entire incident happened within a span of 5-10 seconds). End of story: I let the meatball roll onto the floor on the opposite side of the table, crossed my fingers that nobody saw (though I’m certain the girl next to me did), then secretly picked it up after the meal ended. Crisis averted.
- Being interviewed by the Cornell Police at 3 in the morning…wearing nothing but short underwear. The story’s here, and I still kind of cringe at the thought of the incident.
- Being chased down by the Chinese delivery guy in Donlon Hall freshman year. Ooh, a classic (and one that I still feel bad about). I placed an order for Chinese food online one evening, and instructed the driver to call me when he/she arrives. Only problem? My phone was on silent, I was in a study room, and lost track of time. When he arrived and couldn’t contact me, he brought my order in and started questioning people as to where I could be found. I then had to explain myself/apologize to two groups of people: the friendly Chinese delivery man, and my group of freshman year hallmates who were being extensively interrogated by a beef-with-broccoli-carrying gentleman as to my whereabouts. Awwwkward.
- That time I had to face my professor 30 seconds before my economics final was going to start… because I would’ve taken the wrong test. Okay, freshman me didn’t know that when final exams occur in Barton Hall, the huge track complex is divided up into sections–East, Center, and West–for 3 different exams to take place. As I was filling out my test information on the paper, I looked up and saw my professor giving me this “what are you doing?!?” look. I then realized I was surrounded by students in “Introduction to Oceanography,” and gave her back this look like… “Uhh, not really sure!” Then I sprinted to the correct exam area to start the test on time.
- Repeated instances: My failure to recognize people. Here’s a life tip: when there’s even the faintest chance that you might possibly know someone, don’t say anything that resembles “nice to meet you” or implies a first-time encounter. I’ve been burned by this at Cornell a few times–for example, dropping the “nice to meet you” bomb on someone I’d spoken with repeatedly at previous events. I’ve also told my name to TA’s that I’ve had lots of encounters with. Normally it ends with “David…I know who you are…” which makes me want to crawl into a corner. But, come on, when there are this many people at Cornell (see Slope Day image at right), you can’t really blame me for messing up a name or two.
- Here’s a recent conversation with a professor I ran into, that teaches a small (enrollment-wise) course:
Me: “Hi Professor XXX! Are you teaching XXX course again this fall?”
Professor: “Yes. Will you be taking it?”
Me: “No…I took it last year with you.”
Moral of the story(ies)? It’s all about attitude and the way you compose yourself. Because you spend four years in college, it’s almost statistically guaranteed that you’ll run into some awkward situations. As long as you can maintain some semblance of composure, and have a sense of humor, you’ll be fine!