As I walked by his office Friday morning, I hear him yell his happy "Good Morning", which I was not expecting since he never arrives on time. I didn't necessarily panic, but I hesitated and walked a few feet before I decided to throw a half-wave, which looked like I was throwing up a gang sign, and a "Howarrreyaaa?". Not only did I spit out a "ya" when I hate using abbreviations and slang, but I said it with a slight Southern twang. I'm from Boston.
I should move to Awkward City, where I could run for Mayor...and probably win.
In all seriousness, this is a common occurrence (not the gang signs, I swear). I tend to walk with purpose and a sense of urgency, getting to my target destination with a task on my mind. In the meantime, I always find running into people awkward. I know that all it requires is a simple "Hi, how are you?", but I dread it. Social rules vary from person to person, making the quick interaction entirely unpredictable. Some people give a little half-smile, others say hello, or some ask how you are and don't really respond beyond that. What frustrates me most is when people stop dead in their tracks and start a conversation. I'm then stuck engaging in chitchat I didn't prepare myself for. It's a form of interaction that does not allow for the response time introverts require. And then the moment passes before I think of the appropriate response.
I've gone so far as to figure out the least-populated walking route to my office to avoid these situations in the hallways. I often scold myself for this behavior, because people are just trying to be nice, after all. It shouldn't be so hard to reciprocate, and in most cases, it isn't.
I've made what I feel is a fair compromise with myself though. I am more than capable of participating in the niceties of "Hi, how are you?" And in reason I should, because I don't consider myself a rude person. Most people don't realize how uncomfortable I am with meaningless conversation, and that's exactly it...they don't understand. The last thing I want to do is insult someone or come off as an Ice Queen, which I know is how many extroverts probably perceive me when I stutter some incoherent greeting or give a half-assed grin.
But...if it's one of those days where I am feeling completely inward and not up for the potential, unexpected chitchat, it's completely acceptable for me to take advantage of my special walking route to work. It's okay to catch an acquaintance out of the corner of my eye in the middle of the mall and turn the other way. Who says this makes me inept or rude? As an introvert, I'm entitled to this just as much as I should make an effort to smile and wave.
And you know what? I don't think there's anything wrong with that.