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Avoidable Awkward Situations

Updated on May 11, 2011

What do you do when you're faced with an awkward conversation?

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A Crazy Woman And Ellen DeGeneres

You’re in a store or a restaurant or some other public place and a stranger approaches you. They smile at you. You smile back. You check your watch or look around or do something that should say to this stranger that you don’t want to interact with them. They begin to tell you about themselves. You nod politely, silently cursing your friend for taking longer in the bathroom than she said she would. You want to go find this bathroom and find her, but, knowing your luck, you’d go to a different bathroom than the one she’s in and you’d waste the day looking for each other. You slide your hands deeply into your pockets as it’s what you do when you’re nervous or annoyed. The stranger continues to talk.

“So than I said to my sister…you remember what I said about my sister, right?” the stranger says.

You shrug. You weren’t listening.

“Well, I said to her that I’d bury her under the turnips if she didn’t return my dog’s baby rattle.”

“I’m sorry?” you say, more nervous than ever. Did they really just say they were going to bury their sister?

“Well, that was six months ago.”

“Oh.” Gulp. “Did she return the rattle?”

“No. She’s missing too. I don’t know where she is, so don’t ask me.”

You internally start to scream. Your eyes anxiously scan the room, looking for your friend. You need to get away from this person. You begin to sweat.

“You got a gland problem or something?” they ask, pointing at your sweaty upper lip.

“Yeah.” you manage to squeak out.

“I hope it’s not catchy. My sister once gave me something, but she’s missing now.”

Did your bladder just go? You can’t tell. Every inch of your body is numb. Suddenly, your friend appears before you.

“Sorry about that.” she says, wiping her hands on her pants.

“Oh. You got a friend with you?” the stranger says.

You nod.

“I’ll go talk to someone else then.” they say, walking away.

Its events such as this that make you understand why there have been so many seasons of American Justice and Cold Case Files. They also make you wonder if you’re on Candid Camera. Too often we meet weird people that make us question if we’re being set up for a gag.

This morning I caught Ellen DeGeneres’s talk show. Apparently she periodically has this segment where she has ordinary people put on a microphone and says things for them to say to others through an ear piece. Today, she had someone who works as a barista at Starbucks saying the craziest things. While it was funny for her and the audience, that poor barista had a really bad day. Though they only showed the funny portions, knowing the people who frequent my local Starbucks, there must have been many others who weren’t as nice. In our busy world, people are in a rush and don’t have time to spare. Making customers interact with a puppet being used for Ellen’s amusement (which essentially the barista was) isn’t right. To me, Ellen is going too far with this joke. (As dramatic as it sounds, things could become violent if her pawn annoys the wrong person.) Granted, I laughed along with everyone else, but would I have laughed as a customer? I can guarantee you I would’ve walked out after seeing the way she interacted with the other customers. Starbucks is too expensive anyway. When you add in the abundantly awkward interaction, it’s a total rip off.

What am I trying to say? Am I inferring that Ellen is getting too big for her britches and should think more of others and less about how great a joke could be? Am I saying that candid camera shows aren’t as funny to me as they used to be? Am I sending out a “cease and desist” message to all of the readers who, whether meaning to or not, create an uncomfortable situation by trying to get total strangers, who obviously would prefer to be left alone, to interact with them? All I will say is, we live in a complicated world and should use more care in dealing with each other. Why would we want to cause new, avoidable problems when there are so many yet to be solved?


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