“Hey, what’s up?”
“Hi! I’m just heading to lunch.”
“Alright, I’m going to class but I’ll see you later. Have a good lunch!”
“Thanks, you too!”
*Shamefully realizes that doesn’t make sense.*
Conversations such as this one are not uncommon in my daily life here at Stanford. I have had no dearth of awkward encounters, and from discussions with my peers, I’ve realized that people all have their fair share. They’re just a natural part of life. Read on to discover some of my most mortifying moments thus far.
No way to pay
Hungry and tired after a long day of classes, I could feel my stomach growling at me like a pack of hyenas. I felt like the whole world could hear it. I headed over to CoHo and waited in a seemingly endless line. I picked up a granola bar and a juice, my stomach eagerly awaiting the blissful promise of fulfilling food and drink. When it came time for me to pay, I happily handed my SUID to the cashier. She looked at it disapprovingly and sighed, “Sometimes the ID card works but sometimes it doesn’t. Let’s give it a try.” Optimistic, I looked at her and nodded. As she swiped and checked the register, her frown returned. “I’m sorry, your ID card won’t work.” Disappointed, slightly embarrassed and with no other method of payment, I put away the food items. I could feel my stomach grow angrier with me. I could hear it roaring: “Why are you so stupid? We need food now! I can’t believe you’re trying to kill me!” Patting my stomach as if that would somehow shush it and prevent it from embarrassing me any further, I left CoHo.
Phones in class
At least from my observation, in classes that are very large, students often use their cellphones to send a quick text, check their social media or just look at the time. I usually try to avoid checking my phone during class, though sometimes encounters with our cell phones are inevitable. For example, in one of my classes with over 100 students, a phone rang. In my head, I felt bad for that student. It didn’t take me long to realize that the phone was mine. The professor stared straight at me with a raised eyebrow, an expression of “we all know it’s yours.” “Is that somebody’s alarm clock?” he asked. “Somebody needs to wake up from their nap? I mean, it’s a soothing ringtone for sure.” The class giggled in response. Embarrassed and slightly shocked, I slowly unzipped my backpack pouch. I winced, as the zzzziiiippppppppp only lasted longer when I tried to be quiet. I grabbed my blaring phone and quickly switched off the ringer. Taking a sigh of relief, I looked back the board and tried to pretend that never happened. I’m thankful my professor didn’t make a big deal out of it, because to me, it already felt like the world was going to end when I felt all eyes on me and my loud, obnoxious phone.
Before the summer, I had no idea how to ride a bike. I spent two months practicing, so that by the time I came to Stanford, I knew how to ride. I didn’t think I’d have any problems since I could control the bike, steer properly and adjust my speed. I was in for a big surprise. Biking everywhere on campus is like tap dancing on a minefield. Bikes whizzing past in every direction, other bikers on their phones not paying attention to the road, intersections at every turn, the circle of death. There is no limit to the possibilities of messing up, or just straight up dying, when biking. Recently, someone crashed into me because of his poor decision to bike in a lane designated for the opposite direction. I fell off my bike in front of dozens of tourists (which was the cherry on top of an already-awkward collision with a stranger) and ended up with some bruises and cuts on my legs, as well as a totaled bike. The mortification of crashing and falling really sucked, but it’s made me all the more careful and defensive while biking. If someone is doing something wrong on the road, the onus is on you to protect yourself from the mistakes of others. It sounds unfortunate to say, and it is unfortunate to practice, but it is reality.
Overall, I seem to have embarrassing encounters frequently, and I’m sure there will be many more. Who knows, maybe tomorrow I’ll lock myself out of my room at 3 a.m. while everyone else is asleep (this is actually my biggest fear). All I can do for now is navigate these experiences with the skills I have developed after having to deal with awkward situations time and time again — just shrug and know that something “interesting” is bound to happen again anytime, anywhere.
Contact Vilina Mehta at vmehta19 ‘at’ stanford.edu.