Ask Bwog: Awkward Encounters On The One Train
Written by Lila Etter
If you’re struggling with how to interact with other human beings – specifically, on public transportation – Bwog has some advice for you. Some of it might be good advice, other parts could be absolute crap. It’s up to you to find out!
I have a regular babysitting job (shoutout Barnard Babysitting Agency) at Columbus Circle, so every Thursday evening I take the 1 train to 59th. Every so often, and lately very often, I run into someone I know on the train. These encounters are usually with people I vaguely know – a friend of a friend, a classmate from a huge lecture class I rarely ask for the homework from, or maybe an NSOP friend I haven’t spoken to since NSOP. They are almost always people with whom I have NOTHING in common… which means our conversations are rather limited.
If we get into the same subway car, and we’re only together for one stop, it’s fine. Totally fine. We make small talk, complain – or rave – about whatever class we share, and probably discuss the current weather. But if we have to ride the train together for more than one or two stops, we run into a problem, because beyond that, there’s not much to say. It soon becomes awkward, especially if the subway is crowded so we end up squished against each other and are forced to interact longer. I can’t make conversation for that long!
It’s eight stops between 116th and 59th. Up to twenty minutes of torture. What can I do to survive the ride?
Dear Clumsy Conversation,
In the words of A$AP Rocky, “I know one thing: Anything is better than that 1 Train.” For CU students, that may be because whenever we ride the 1, we always end up running into each other. Our school is so damn small, and nothing reminds us more of that fact than bumping into an acquaintance on the subway. And when all you’re trying to do is get to your destination unscathed, the thought of having to force out a conversation with a sort-of-stranger is less appealing than all of your finals put together.
Despite the fact that this problem can feel like a desperate situation, you do have some options:
- Supplies! Bring headphones. Bring a book. Even bring your homework if that’s what works for you. This is really the greatest resource at your disposal. If you’re empty-handed, it can be awkward to convince the other person that you’re too busy to talk. On the other hand, if you’re holding Infinite Jest, said person will not question your choice to fully ignore them. Infinite Jest… or a smelly sandwich. Both tend to drive people away.
- Smile and try to maintain friendliness. This, admittedly, can be the most difficult because, depending on who it is, you may really just want to avoid them at all costs. We all have those days where we don’t want to interact with anyone, much less someone we vaguely know. But ultimately, we’re all just people on our way somewhere, and recognizing that can be helpful in creating comfortable interactions.
- Once the small talk runs dry, take the risk of pushing it further than that. Do your best to engage this person in deeper conversation: ask them about their studies, then their hometown, then maybe their childhood. Dig a little deeper. Look at this as an opportunity to get to know someone better. Who knows? It could blossom into something beautiful.
- If you’re not into that, do the exact opposite: ruin your chances at ever becoming closer with this person by freaking them out a little. Ask them a weird question that is way too personal, or straight up bizarre, and makes it clear you’re not to be trusted. They will most likely figure this out and move slowly away from you in the car.
- If all else fails and you really can’t hang, feel free to bail. Call your ass an Uber. We’ve all been there.
Hope this is somewhat helpful! Above all, don’t let awkward encounters detract from your 1 train experience.
image via Bustle
Tags: advice that is actually good for you, ask bwog, awkward conversations, columbia students hit the streets, cringe, don't just take the one train, from the actually wise, how many ways can you talk about it without saying what it is, just don't take the one train, walk, we're serious about the slip n slide