Although we may pretend embarrassing moments don’t happen to us Oles, the opposite often proves all too true. In fact, St. Olaf’s small size and inclusive campus usually heighten the awkwardness of any given situation – sometimes to the point of social anxiety or emotional stress.
If you accidentally crank a bookshelf into the boy from choir, the only open spot in the reference room will be the one next to him. If you and the girl from biology share a Pause dance you’d like to forget, you’re sure to see her when you’re the only two walking across the quad. If you trip walking up the stairs to Stav in front of your secret crush, you are guaranteed to see him or her at breakfast next week – probably the one day you don’t bother to blow dry your hair or forget to wear deodorant.
It’s just our luck.
Maybe it’s the stress of organic chemistry, delirium from staring at a philosophy paper for six straight hours or years of ridicule as a high school choir kid, but this unfortunate reality affects us all.
As a person who experiences awkward situations more often than most, I’m proud to say I’ve learned to handle them with grace – or at least I try. Here, I take you through an embarrassing yet painfully average day for me, proving laughter is the best medicine.
I arrived at the cafeteria around 11:30 a.m. I decided to reward myself for resisting the tater tots by dousing my salad in French dressing and Goldfish YOLO. However, I encountered more than a few difficulties while pouring the Goldfish, and experienced a momentary – and involuntary – breakdown.
“These, ah … these things, they’re, ah, uh … ah, I don’t know,” I said to the person I thought I knew but did not behind me in line.
Apparently unable to formulate coherent English, my breath grew heavy as sweat dribbled down my back – it was gross. Ready to give up, I gave the dispenser one last shake. The Goldfish came rushing out, landing on the floor, on the person behind me and between the buttons on my shirt.
“Sorry,” I said to the poor person witnessing my struggle.
We both looked at each other, looked at the excessive Goldfish and laughed.
“No problem,” she said, picking a Goldfish off of my scarf.
Clearly not mentally equipped to handle the Caf, I ordered a cheese cup at the Cage – apparently, it was one of those days. I handed the cashier what I thought was my ID card.
“You can’t pay with this,” she said, holding up my Lifetime Fitness card.
“Sorry,” I said, handing her a crumpled five-dollar bill, “I’m really tired.”
“You want some coffee?” she asked jokingly.
“Please,” I said, chuckling along with her.
Later that day, as I walked up the staircase with my friend, I tripped a little bit. In other words, I completely ate it.
“Wow, drunk at 6 p.m. on a Wednesday?” I heard the person behind us mutter.
1. I was 100 percent sober.
2. I took precautions by holding the handrail.
3. Yes, it happened regardless.
My friend tried to console me, but failed to contain her laughter, as did I.
By embracing the moments that make me cringe – by laughing at myself – I get through those I-can’t-believe-that-really-just-happened-I’m-never-coming-out-of-my-dorm-room-again moments. And you know what they say: As the following Oles confirm, the worst moments make the best stories.
Andrew Lindvall ’14
“I’ll meet you upstairs,” I said to my cute Caf date score.
So focused on keeping my plate steady, I unknowingly walked into the railing as I rounded the corner. Fortunately, because I possess such acute reflexes, I avoided spilling my food – using only one hand. Impressive, I know.
However, I lost track of the rest of my body in the process. Tripping, I attempted to catch myself by grabbing the railing, but overestimated my reach. My entire arm got stuck between the railing at the wall, keeping me captive in a kneeling position in the stairwell.
I watched numerous Oles walking by me – it was the 5:30 p.m. dinner rush, of course – either laughing, clapping or pretending not to notice. Frantic, I tried to free myself, but because the railing had jammed my elbow, I remained helpless.
After struggling for nearly 15 minutes, a Stav worker finally rescued me.
“This wasn’t in the job description,” he said as he lifted my arm over the railing.
Wincing with pain, I thanked him and continued up the stairs – plate of food still in hand.
My date was still waiting for me. Nice.
Eric Crees ’15
As if navigating the cafeteria as naive, over-eager first years isn’t awkward enough, my roommate and I could not locate our friends. We walked aimlessly around the first level, scanning the cafeteria – what I like to call the “creep sweep” – and avoiding eye contact at all costs. But, I mean, I played it cool.
As we ventured up the stairs we felt a fine mist hit us. We briefly acknowledged our concern, but ultimately chose to shrug it off, and continued walking up the stairs.
As we turned the corner to head up the second set, we looked up and saw the source of the mist: an Ole lunging towards the railing with puke violently flying out of his open mouth.
Speechless, we stood in utter disbelief for a few moments before fully realizing that chunks of puke landed in our food, clothes and hair.
Whimpering, we went to get a fresh plate.
Amanda Tveite ’15
Exhausted after a long day of class, I trudged through the snow back to Larson for a pre-dinner nap. I thought about taking the stairs for about seven seconds, but considering I live on the 11th floor, I opted for the elevator. Although I was in a daze, it was hard to miss what happened next.
Waiting for the elevator with a somewhat anxious, extremely sweaty first year, I sensed him looking at me. I looked over to acknowledge him, but he spontaneously started coughing.
“It really is flu season, huh?” I said.
I waited for a response, but obviously, due to his uncontrollable cough, he could not speak. I pretended to fix my hair and turned away. When the elevator arrived, the awkwardness increased exponentially.
Clearly in the middle of making out, a couple in the elevator paused briefly when the doors opened. I walked in standing as far away from the lovers as possible, and the sickly first year bolted towards the stairs.
As soon as the doors closed they went right back to their PG-13 canoodling.
And by that, I mean, gross. I understand your need for affection, but it’s Tuesday afternoon. You need to learn to contain your passion.
Kristine Kroker ’15
“Hey, you!” I said to the boy making a panino.
I stood there waiting for him to respond, but after a minute or two of standing by the salad bar smiling to myself, I concluded that he did not hear me. My voice doesn’t tend to carry well in noisy settings, so naturally, I decided to yell louder. And wave. With both hands.
“Hey! Hey! Look, I remembered who you are!”
I’d met this boy the previous week, and he didn’t think I would say hi to him after our initial meeting.
“Oh . . . yeah,” he said, looking confused.
There was a tense pause. The only sound I could hear was the panini maker sizzling. I let out a lingering giggle to fill the silence.
“Yeah, I remember you too?” he muttered.
He did not remember me because as I later found out, this person was not the boy from the previous week. Two months have passed, and he continues to say hi to me. I’m not sure if this is a sign of blossoming friendship or pity, but either way, I see him everywhere. Constantly.