What do you do?
Look behind you?
Wave with confidence and assume you were the intended target?
This is a tough call to make and one I was confronted with while picking out my lunch at Wegman's recently. It became the perfect fodder for a lunch time discussion with Matt and as usual, we analyzed it in great detail.
The "Is that wave for me?" issue dates back to prehistoric times and man still struggles with how to resolve it. I can remember picking up my son from school a few years back and another father, one I hardly knew, sent a wave in my direction. I thought to myself, there is no way that's for me, people aren't that friendly here in NJ, right? I'll give a nonchalant look over my shoulder to confirm I do not need to return the favor. Shit, there's no one there and I've made it very obvious. Do I still wave back at this point or is it beyond the statute of limitations? I think I threw a casual "what's up" head nod and then ran to the car in shame. That day, I vowed to come up with a fool-proof plan that could be applied in future awkward situations.
Fast forward to the present where a former coworker spotted me at Wegman's and threw out a half-hearted wave my way.
My initial gut reaction was to just toss a wave back but I quickly consulted my waving playbook and applied what I had taught myself years ago.
The answer is to pretend like you do not see the wave at all without making it obvious. I suggest fixating on an object directly over or next to the waver in question.
This puts the onus back on the original waver. Now they have to wonder whether you saw them wave or they missed you completely. Once the waver moves on, you can go about your business without any awkward feeling or guilt.
It's always tough being in those situations and not wanting to look like a spaz or that you're uncomfortable about making the other person feel uncomfortable. Sounds confusing but think about it.
When put in an awkward situation, you're uncomfortable and you're trying not to make the other person feel just as uncomfortable. However, it doesn't always work out that way.
I got a few "Situations" to share.
A few years back my wife's cousin came by our house to visit so we could meet his new girlfriend. Both in their early 20's, they had just started dating and were still in that lovey dovey, honeymoon stage of their relationship. They were at my house a little early to hang out with my son and my wife until they got the chance to meet the "big man" of the house. Me. Mr. 1980's.
I finally get home and I'm all prepared to make sure I come off as the cool, regular, funny guy that these two would enjoy hanging out with, just in case somewhere down the road we all decide to do the double date thing. I walk in and see his girlfriend and go "Heyyyyyyyy, who's this movie star?"......... Dead silence. What? What a loser I am.
Yes, it was as awkward as this. The "HEY MA MEATLOAF" scene.
This poor girl was probably saying to herself "What the hell did that mean?" while I'm trying to act all cool, never realizing how lousy of an opening line that was. I still feel like a complete idiot to this day. However, it all worked out and yes they are still together and rip on me every chance they get.
More recently, my wife and I go to a dinner my son's school is having for just the parents called "Pasta Night". We are part of a table of eight (4 couples), I know everyone since they are from the school so it wasn't like it was the first time I was meeting them. Real nice people, but we've never really hung out other than seeing each other at either soccer or a t-ball game. We get there a little late so everyone has already eaten and are just BS'ing when we walk in.
Awkward thing #1 - Thinking in my head.....Do I go around the whole table and shake each guys hand? Because if I do that, then what do I do when saying hello to their wives? Do I kiss hello or do the phony awkward head nod hello and then shake their husbands hands? Doesn't feel right to do the phony head nod after shaking their husbands hand. If I do the phony head nod hello, without kissing hello, that might make it more awkward for possible future engagements.
I play it safe and just say out loud in my best Bronx accent "How ya doin?" to the table.
Awkward thing #2 - The 3 husbands are on the other end of the table and I'm between my wife and another one of the wives, so between the DJ music (yes, there was a DJ) and the rest of the place talking loud across their tables, I can't hear much. All of a sudden they stop talking and now everyone is just looking around trying to act busy and act as comfortable as possible (i.e. fussing with their phones, cleaning up crumbs on the table, stretching, etc.). In my head I'm hearing "C'mon Matt say something to get a conversation going...C'mon"... I pulled out one that I knew would be safe and perfect "So who you guys rooting for in the Super Bowl?". It worked. From then on it set the stage for the rest of the night where we were all laughing it up as if we've done this many times. Whew.....
And by the way, at the end of the night I did both, shook hands with the guys and kissed the wives goodnight.