Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Altoids Etiquette

Some awkward moments shouldn't really be awkward, but they are anyway. College is replete with settings for these amusing moments to occur.

In my home-away-from-home, otherwise known as Gaylord College, I settled down on a couch on the third floor, tucked away in a corner of the already-marginalized Professional Writing Alcoves. I ate lunch there. I took a nap. I did homework there, all without anyone breaking my solitude. Ah, sweet peace.

Photo courtesy of

After several hours, someone finally passed my way. It was a young man -- a fellow college student with dark, curly hair. He promptly planted himself in the couch next to me. I continued tapping away on Verk 4 (my laptop, for those of you who have forgotten), faithfully attacking a climactic scene in my novel and ignoring the visitor.

Suddenly, I heard garbled words that sounded something like, "All told?" I looked over to see the man's outstretched hand holding a small, red box, and realized that he had actually said,

I sure as heck wasn't going to turn down an Altoid! Gratefully, I took a little white candy and thanked the young man. Then, I turned back to my computer.

Then came the moment of uncertainty. I glanced up and opened my mouth as if to say something to my new Altoid-sharing friend, then closed it again and plastered my eyes to Verk 4's screen. To my dismay, I realized I had nothing more to type. Oh, dear. I wasn't sure if I was supposed to strike up a conversation after that nice gesture, or if I was simply meant to take the Altoid and move on, pretending that the exchange never happened. Was the Altoid a bribe? A symbol of beneficence? A deep, unspoken pact? I didn't know. I felt the sweat bead on my brow.

Photo courtesy of

My fingers hovered over the computer, itching for something to type as an escape from potential, profoundly shame-inducing faux pas. Quickly, I made a plan. I began to type furiously. It didn't matter what I was typing, as long as I had a good excuse to do something besides talk. My little digital soliloquy ended up looking a lot like this:

"I don't know what to do right now because I feel awkward so I'm going to type randomly. I can either keep doing this or pull out my cell phone and text, because that's also a socially-acceptable thing to do in someone else's presence to show that you're busy. I'm still sitting here, laughing at myself because I'm doing this, but seriously, this Altoid is causing me a lot of trouble! . . ."

A mere three minutes later, I had to leave the college anyway. With the piercingly minty taste of an Altoid on my tongue and a mixture of various *headdesk* feelings in my brain, I walked away to face the rest of the world and its odd, socially acceptable behavior.


  1. Ha! This made me laugh really hard! Not only because it demonstrates your particularly keen cultural observations, but also because in the midst of my culture shock overseas, I have completely forgot about this particular American oddity. Based on my limited observations of students here in Asia, I think you were letting your true inner-Asian self come out. Good job, my friend! Keep up the good work!

  2. Thanks, Travis! I'm glad it amused you! :D Now I'm curious about what you mean by "my true inner-Asian self came out." What did you mean?

  3. Like. Yep, I'm using facebook brevity, because I enjoy this and want you to know, but cannot elaborate any more or provide advice or constructive criticism.



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