Awkward moments, specifically. Life is full of these, but I seem to be exceptionally good at finding myself in the midst of them or, more often, creating them.
… like when someone says something to you, and you respond before you have a chance to think about what you are saying. Happy birthday, someone might say. You too, you might respond. Immediately following your response is an awkward silence, and several options arise: 1) laugh uncomfortably and walk away, 2) if walking away is not possible, change the subject quickly (“What are your plans for this weekend? Oh, it’s Monday morning? Shit.”), 3) Pretend that you genuinely thought that this person had the same birthday as you. Neither of these options are appealing. I blame these silly and reflexive responses on our — our in the royal sense — lowered attention spans and re-wired neuron networks, due to ever internalized modern living. I blame blundering insensitivity on a world where propogating of personal information is more important that real social interaction. Admittedly, I blame it on these things mostly because I’m unwilling to admit any specific fault in myself, and also to briefly feel some sort of superiority over the masses. Sad? Maybe.
… or like when you spend 10 minutes at a bank machine trying to withdraw some cash; each time the words “Transaction Error: Please try again later” flash across the screen. Eventually you give up and let the next person use the machine because you are embarrassed and don’t want to be that guy (the one that the people in the line will later refer to in exasperated tones when explaining to their friends why they were late for their respective engagements). Then you look down and realize that you have been sliding your health insurance card into the slot all this time and, since you really need the money, you wait around until you can use the ATM again. You don’t want to impose, because you are polite that way, and you wait awkwardly by the machine until everyone is done. Meanwhile, the other users eyeball you, sizing you up as a deadbeat who is about to ask for a fiver after claiming that the perfectly functional bank machine is in fact malfunctioning. So be it; you’ll probably never see them again — until the next time you see them at that ATM.
… or when you walk through a food aisle at the supermarket, and you cannot remember why you are in the supermarket at all, let alone that particular aisle. A helpful and nauseatingly friendly (and possibly attractive) employee will ask you if they can help you find anything and, instead of a customary “No thank you,” you will reply “I’m… I’m not really sure,” to which, of course the employee could not possibly have a response. She could try to be helpful, but that would only make things worse, because she could only do so by speaking to you as if you were a special needs child who has found himself impossibly confused in a public bathroom stall (“Do you have to do Number One or Number Two?”). You must then fixate on a particular item and dash towards it as if it had been what you were seeking all along. “Ah! Chives!”, you will say and hold it up like a trophy so that the employee can pity you and leave.
… or when you are at a bar, and a girl smiles at you invitingly, but you do not approach her because you are a big pussy (pardon the term, feminists). You smile back, which is a good start, and turn back to your conversation or pretend to anyway. You will move your hands emphatically, gesturing as if you describing a large black man’s testicles. Your friends will think you’ve lost your marbles, but this isn’t all that bad. At least she will think you’re nonchalant and non-desperate and that you have friends and interests, even. Throughout the night, she will continue to smile at you, and you will smile back (that same, lopsided tightening of the lips), until eventually she realizes that you will not be approaching her and loses interest. At bar close, you will realize that you have (almost!) squandered an opportunity and you saunter over to her while she is having a smoke outside and try to say something clever like, “cigarettes kill, but so does beauty so, I think, you’ve um, got it covered,” and you will grin pleadingly (Pleas give me second chance!). She will be confused and creeped out by your lurching advances and ignore you until you go away. You will thrust our hands into your pockets, square your shoulders, crane your neck as if you’re looking for someone, yell “Jeff! Wait up!” and walk towards the bus stop.
Life is just a string of these awkward moments. It’s probably best not to dwell.