Awkward “Passing By” Moments

We all know what I’m talking about.

You’re walking to class, or work, or what have you, when you spot an acquaintance. At first, they’re clearly within a recognizable distance. Yet, still too far away to engage in any vocal communication – but rapidly approaching.

What first goes through your mind is the nature of your relationship with the individual (Enemy? Friend? Drunken hook-up?). Followed by the decision of what should be said in passing. If anything.

This is the point where I need to make a distinction between two types of people. Engagers and Repliers.

Engagers seek to be the one who speaks first in passing; the one whose greeting is to be replied to.

Repliers are the ones who remain quiet unless engaged upon.

The degree to which a person is an Engager or Replier varies depending on context; for instance, someone who is typically an Engager may become a Replier when approaching a more gregarious Engager.

(But the same scenario with the same two people could be flipped on it’s head a mere 24 hours later, depending on what I call the DIF, which obviously is short for ‘Drug Intake Factor’. Next day, it turns out Mr. Gregarious was actually Mr. Likes-to-take-adderall-before-snorting-cocain. That DIF is some shit.)

If I’m not mistaken, this creates four categories of possible outcomes any time two members of a community walk past each other. They are as follows:

  1. Engager walks past Replier – at what point the Engager says something like, “Hey, how’s it going?” and the Replier responds, “Not bad, you?” Typically the smoothest transactions.
  2. Engager walks past Engager – at what point both parties attempt to engage in menial passing dialog and in doing so create a moment which they can both enjoy, as Engagers are typically chipper and outgoing and cherish imperfect moments such as those.
  3. Replier walks past Replier – at what point both pussies pretend to be looking at anything else other than each other, yet are both well aware that the other is doing the same thing.

Aw, fuck. I guess there was only three. If A=B then AxB=BxA or some such shit.

Anyway. Back to the hypothetical situation I was describing:

So as you approach the person you decide two things: what you intend to say if the approaching person says nothing, and how you intend to reply if they engage.

The only problem is we make these decisions prior to any actual vocal communication. This can at times result in some rather weird moments.

For instance, someone says, “What’s good?” and I reply, “Not much.” A rather depressing verbal encounter when you think about it.

Or when someone says “What’s up?” and I say “Pretty good.” Which just totally doesn’t make sense.

Basically, these moments are inevitable in life. So get used to them.

Boom. Awkward passing-by moments explained. You’re welcome.

9 thoughts on “Awkward “Passing By” Moments”

  1. Dude. Dealing with this shit is a challenge everyday. Then there are those people you recognize, or think you recognize but don’t; the eye contact, aversion, maybe a nervous gesture like chin or nose rub, just the a cherry on top of an awkward sunday.

    When they wave to someone behind you, how it evokes the impulse to wave back — and the secondary impulse to repress it, and the tertiary impulse to focus and move on. And somehow they’re oblivious that you were in the way.

    Fuck eye contact.


  2. No, not your tendancy to overanalyse (you might need to curb that a little). It is your tendancy to notice the little things. You are observant about the ways of people. In my view, that makes for a good partner, male or female – there are some women who could develop their skills a little too, it is not just a male thing!


  3. You were so dead on with this! I also love the awkward moment when you see someone you consider a friend but you’re not quite sure how good of a friend they are. So when you see them you don’t know if you should keep your distance or go in for the hug and then you decide to go for the hug and they look at you like “bitch I don’t know you!” Fun times!


  4. Yes.

    Just, yes.


    Okay, I lied. I like to talk. ;)

    So, I go to a very large university. This does not mean the awkward “passing by” moment doesn’t happen, just that when it does, there are even more factors involved. Like, how many people are standing in between you at the moment? Could you dart into a crowd without being noticed? Etc, etc, etc. And then, there’s the necessity of saying hello on facebook after seeing someone you really can’t get to through a sea of people, but they saw you and you saw them and not saying anything would be a complete snub.


  5. As much as this is probably not what you want to hear at 21, can I say you are going to make someone an AWESOME husband! This is a great take on life! By the way – it is even worse if, like me, you are visually challenged and you recognise the prson from a distance as someone you know but that it ALL you recognise. They have to be WAY too close before you have ANY idea about prior decisions!

    I’m an engager – IF I am lucky enough to actually recognise someone passing by!


  6. I am definitely a replier I dont like to engage in forced awkward interaction unless I’m forced to. I even take measures to avoid awkward interactions by using different routes or pretending to talk on my phone


  7. Awesome little spot man. Funny post, I am a replier. Even if its a “good friend” I will not engage in speaking. You never know what type of day it could be for them, and I know some days I’m more social than others. However, I will reply any time. Good stuff.


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