On the average day, I probably walk 60 minutes to and from classes. One might expect that I’d be used to the process. And don’t get me wrong—I love walking. One of the best parts about living far away from campus is the long walk. It means I get that much extra time to do absolutely nothing. I can’t do homework, read, or study while I’m walking, so I usually take the walks as slow as possible. Nonetheless, walking to class is still the most awkward thing I experience in my daily life.
There are a number of reasons why this is the case. First off, I’m never sure what facial expression I should wear. I’ve tried them all: the contemplating face, the serious face, the pout, the sad expression, the smile, but none of them feel quite right. One time, as I was walking to get coffee, my friend called me and asked if I was ok. Apparently, I “looked like I was going to kill myself” (her words). In an attempt to look as “normal” as possible, I clearly fail.
Most of the time, I have my iPod on, eyes on the ground. Perhaps I look nervous or scared, but I’m just focused on my own thoughts. Most people are listening to their own songs, and I am constantly wondering what they are listening to. No matter what, I’m sure I’m always wrong.
Adding to my bizarre walking habits is my obsession with stepping on dried leaves. If there is a single leaf, big or small, I almost always make a point to step on it. I feel like a child who can’t resist splashing in a puddle whenever it rains. But here is something satisfying about hearing the crunch, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop. And yes, I do splash in puddles if I’m wearing proper footwear.
Then there is the added problem of encountering strangers. There is an unspoken agreement that strangers passing each other on a college campus do not speak. Their eyes do not meet, and they pretend that nothing has happened. Of course, in any other setting I would say “hello” or at least smile. Sometimes, there is the unfortunate occurrence in which I stare too long at someone. A cute guy walks by, I stare until he notices (and then look away as quickly as possible). A girl is wearing her Greek letters on her pants, her shirt, and her purse; I glare at her for a little too long. Even in these split-second meetings, I can feel the awkwardness washing over me.
Possibly worse than encountering a stranger is encountering an acquaintance. How near does he have to be before I say hello? I’m never sure, so I pretend not to see him until we’re near enough for me to look up and say, “Hi!” It is often clear that we have both seen each other, yet neither of us wants to shout. Instead, we look the opposite direction until one of us decides on an appropriate distance to interact.
I realize I cannot possibly be the only person who feels this way. Does anyone else feel extremely awkward as they walk to class, work, or wherever? I’m always wondering what other people think of me as I walk. I know I’m thinking about them as we pass on the street.