There are nearly 8,000 acres of Stanford land. There are about 7,000 undergrads, so the likeliness of seeing the same people more than once seems slim. Sure, there are a few of us, but campus is so big that I’d like to think that I won’t see too many people all the time.
This theory seemed to be supported through my own experiences during fall and winter quarter. People from classes and intro seminars seemed to only exist within the four walls of my classroom. I always biked past unfamiliar faces through roundabouts, stood in dining hall lines behind strangers and didn’t even recognize some people in my hall.
Now this may be my own oblivious nature, but talking to some friends, we all concluded that sometimes, you just don’t see the same people at all. It was this basic principle that I adopted once deciding to download Tinder or interacting with people at parties.
People I saw at parties were never really people I ever saw again, so whenever I exchanged numbers or Snapchats, I never thought a lot about it. People who I could spend hours talking to from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. in random hallways and gardens were the same people I would never see again.
I’ve never been especially keen on dating apps, but seeing screenshots of my friends’ funny bios or hearing their fun stories made it sound appealing. As one does their first fall quarter at Stanford, I made a Tinder and swiped right. These swipes resulted in short coffee dates, trips to the movies and even nice dinners sharing pastries. Some were not so nice and completely disastrous with pretentious talks of how they interned at Google and thus must be much wiser than me — the potential philosophy major. I had coffee dates where misogyny spewed through short conversations about Quentin Tarantino and Chris Brown. Sometimes I saw these people more than once, and sometimes I didn’t. I ended up deleting Tinder completely during my winter quarter after realizing it wasn’t what I wanted.
So, here I was, about to begin spring quarter with no encounter of any of my past Tinder dates nor the people I’ve interacted with at parties. But for some odd reason, the universe decided that I had to see these people more than once. In fact, the universe decided to place a minimum of one person I’d gone on a date with in each of my spring quarter classes. One of my classes had three Tinder dates — it was a class of only 60 people.
The person I’d spent an entire night with one rainy winter quarter night at a frat popped up in one of my organizations. The horrible dinner date I went on was working at the same building I was. This sudden wave of familiar faces reminded me of all the cringy things that each encounter had entailed, and I was so shocked that I congregated with my friends.
To all of our horrors, they discovered by the first week of spring quarter that they also were being visited by the ghosts of Tinder past and fall quarter flings. One friend really thought she escaped the rest of our fates, until she went on Canvas, saw the list of people taking the class and saw a name she’d hoped to never see again.
Upon the discovery that I was to see these ghosts of my quarters past whether I liked it or not (or whether they were good or bad), I decided to wait out how the interactions were to play out over class and organizational meetings.
As expected, there were awkward small waves, complete ignoring of one another’s existence and uncomfortable small talk. Through my close spring quarter encounters, I’ve decided there are only a limited amount of actions to take when you encounter a Tinder date.
1. Complete lack of acknowledgement of the other person. The first encounter post-Tinder or post-party is where things really get tested out. This is a course of action where you know that you’ve seen each other but refuse to make any contact — whether indirect or direct. No eye contact, no small wave and no smiles. Once choosing this action, it seems like it’s a permanent one, because if we didn’t say hi to one another as we parked our bikes at the closest proximity, then it’d seem counterintuitive to say hi on another occasion.
I usually have no hard feelings towards any of my ghosts of flings past, so I let the other person decide how they want to handle the situation — if they don’t say hi, then I don’t. This was a wise tip given to me by a fellow Tinder veteran in my class.
2. Don’t go out of your way to say hi, but if they’re there, then do say hi. There are some decent human beings out there who will in fact acknowledge that they do know you, so there’ll be a small greeting. This is my favorite course of action because we recognize that hey, we got some coffee, it didn’t click, and that’s okay.
You’ll say in hi in between classes, maybe even ask how they’re doing. The nicest part about this greeting is that there’s minimal real conversation. No awkward small talk about classes this quarter or summer plans.
3. Sometimes we acknowledge each other, and sometimes we don’t. Yeah, I don’t really get this one either. Sometimes, people decide to speak to you on a fine Monday morning as you usher into section together, but then if you walk past them on a Thursday evening it is — for whatever reason — no longer okay to say hi.
My friends say this course of action really depends on moods and presentations. This is perhaps the most unstable of decisions.
4. Insist on making conversation every time you see them. I, personally, do not like this course of action at all, but I have had a couple encounters where certain people will decide to carry out the conversations from our last interactions.
Remember that dinner date we went on three months ago where we talked about vectors and pound cake? Well, I didn’t — until I was approached as I was unlocking my bike two minutes late to a class. Perhaps not the smoothest course of action.
I think that having some of my ghosts of the past in my classes has taught me to remember that campus is in fact not that big and to master avoiding eye contact. People really differ in terms of their interactions with one another, and I’d like to end on a note that there’s no straightforward way for the after.
You’ll know what to do once you see them, and if you really don’t (like me), then you’ll learn how to navigate whatever feels most comfortable for you.
Contact Rachel Ochoa at racochoa ‘at’ stanford.edu.