OK, I did it again a few days ago. I intentionally avoided someone I knew in order to limit the "how have the last five years been?" conversation. And by "intentionally avoided" I mean caught sight of said individual, turned around in the aisle then checked every row I went down to make sure he wasn't there. I know, LAME.
Here's the problem, in multiple layers:
1) I know A LOT of people (in the acquaintance form of "know"). I teach classes to preschoolers at two locations. I teach classes to adults in two locations. I attended then worked at the University down the street for eight years in a pretty social role. I have lived in Arizona my whole life, attending five pretty good sized churches and was active in most of them. In a good way, I get around.
2) I remember faces really well and names pretty well. And if we ever sat down and had a conversation about you breaking up with your boyfriend or talked about when you bought your first house, I probably remember it. I have tried to push the "flush no-longer-relevant facts" button in my brain but it hasn't worked. At least once a month I have a dream with someone in it from college or high school that I knew or didn't know well but there they are, playing some bit part in my dream.
3) I hate chit-chat. OK, amend that. I don't enjoy chit-chat and hate it when the chit-chat will never lead to deeper conversation. I actually "dumped" a friend because I got tired of having the same small talk conversation every time we hung out. Come to think of it, I'm sort of dumping someone now for that same reason...(if you are reading this, it isn't you!).
So, back to the supermarket. I turn down the aisle and see "Bob" (one of you reading this will know who I'm talking about by the time I get to the end). I used to work with Bob at the University. He had worked there for about 20 years. I got to know him because I got to go to his boring computer meetings and watch him get pushed around by everyone. So, my first thought upon seeing Bob was, "He hasn't aged well." Not a good conversation starter. My second thought was, "I wonder if he is still at the University even though it got bought out and they watered down the education horribly and he did way too much work for not enough money. He probably is because of some skewed sense of loyalty." Also not a good way to start. Which leaves me with, "Bob, how are you?" Ug. Then the the obligatory filling in of my life that starts with, "Well since the alma mater fired me I've had a job, two kids, another job and blah blah blah." And then we'd have to talk about our common ground, which would be A) The people we both worked with and B) the Colleague computer program (boring meetings). Then the awkward pause as we say something like, "See you later."
This process took .3 seconds to flash through my brain and by now my feet had already taken me right out of the aisle.
And here's the thing: I am not shy! Not at all. Ever (well, hardly ever). I talk to strangers all the time. I like people. I like to talk. Just not in this circumstance. So, I avoid. I probably do it twice a year. Sometimes I get caught by the acquaintance and we renew for two minutes then float back into our own lives. Sometimes I get away with it.
Sorry, Bob. I probably missed a great conversation with you. I'm sure I've sorely underestimated you. But, boy, was I glad to escape you.