Awkward Encounters: The perils of social interaction

Elsa Maishman 24 January 2015

Sometimes, it seems that my life is comprised of one awkward moment after another. From falling up stairs to walking into bollards, I never seem to attain the smooth, ease with which normal people go about their daily business. A week ago, my inability to interact with other humans was brought home after a particularly late trip to my College library (I know, it’s an exciting
life that I lead). 

The story, I should explain, has its roots way back in the pre-application stage of yearning. All I wanted in the
world was to get into Cambridge – it became an obsession, which consumed my everyday life. And so I whiled away my days watching video logs (vlogs), made by a second-year computer scientist at Queens’ College who seemed, to my envious eyes, to be the epitome of cool. 

The vlogs, which are still ongoing, are weekly diaries in which said Cantabrigian celebrity videos extracts of his day-to-day life at Cambridge.They were my lifeline to my dream university and my desperate, ambitious younger self  devoured them religiously. 

Ever since arriving in Cambridge, I had been half-expecting to catch sight of the internet enigma.  whenever I spotted anyone with brown hair and a camera, I could never resist the temptation to follow the unsuspecting stranger in around for a few minutes, until I inevitably discovered that it was not, in fact, the vlogger in question. 

And so, I was not overly surprised to encounter someone looking uncannily like the cool Compsci as I made my way back to my staircase on that fateful evening. He stopped walking just as I passed him, and I realised that this was no deceptive doppelgänger: he was the real deal. It then ocurrred to me that I had been staring fixedly into a stranger’s eyes for several minutes with no obvious explanation. “Hi” I smiled at him, while the sensible part of my brain squirmed in embarrassment, smothered by star-struck awe. “Oh hey,” he returned – the beginning of a new friendship, I wondered, until his next words: “do you know if there’s a toilet round here?”

I laughed, then realised that that was perhaps not the response he was expecting. “Sorry, I just… it’s so weird to see you near my staircase!” He smiled awkwardly. “No, I’m not from this College…” He fell silent. I realised that perhaps my staring was making
him feel uncomfortable. In hindsight, it would probably have been a good idea to explain the reason behind it. But instead I simply pointed at the toilet door behind me. And then turned around and watched as he backed through it with a last, confused glance in my direction.