Column Sample: Hi how are you
Originally published in The University of San Diego Student Newspaper, The Vista
Weekly editor's column
USD students are uncomfortably familiar with each other; our school is small and it is all too easy to run into fifteen people I know in the ten minutes between classes—and I'm not even your typical super-chill popular Lamda Chi bro, either.
Making eye contact and saying “Hi how are you” has become more nerve-wracking for me on campus than ever before, and I have been avoiding it as much as possible. I've been taking different routes, coming early and hiding out in places other than the ever popular La Paloma and the Back-Library Frat-Sorority Super-Chill Study Spot in Copley (I made up the name, but you know what I’m talking about).
Why has it become so difficult to be polite and chipper with my college acquaintances? And why am I turning into the unresponsive zombie that I don’t appreciate? I have a few theories.
1. Far too many times, when trying to be warm by acknowledging an acquaintance’s presence, I was received coldly or uncomfortably with strange and nervous half-smiles and an increased-paced evasion.
2. My name, the other’s name or the nature of our acquaintance has been forgotten, and conversation is ridiculously awkward because of this.
3. The simple fact is that we have not talked in some time, as if we are not supposed to, and thereby any acknowledgement breaks this unspoken code of ignorance of one another and the stars become misaligned and the universe collapses upon itself if we speak to each other.
There are many other possible reasons, but it is a well-documented phenomenon on the USD campus -- we students just do not say hi to each other as much as normal human beings ought to. Maybe it’s an overarching symptom of what it means to be an American these days. But as much as I would love to keep ignoring people, stay a comfortable distance and simply act like I’ve already graduated, I won’t.
These coming months are my last here at school. Maybe I won’t ever see you again. But I will say hello and stop pretending like I don’t know you, especially because many of you pretend you don’t know me. I will be that guy screaming across the street, “WHATS UP BOB?!” and you will be that awkward dumbass running away in embarrassment.
Or will you? I challenge you, USD, to be more open. Stop avoiding that guy who you haven’t said a word to in public, even though you had a 25-minute conversation last week at a party. Stop being a mute brick in your classes before they start, turn to a random class mate and tell her you like her shoes. Talk to new people, talk to old friends or at least say “Sup” if that’s all you can muster.
It takes balls to be social with so many acquaintances, but I say give it a try. Next time you see me, say hello.