It's 1 p.m. outside Frontera. The mental dialogue begins, hurling you into a frenzy about the unavoidable interactions you're about to have. Yeah, last night you may have shared a beer with your crush at Smokes' but WHO KNOWS what this day will hold when you inevitably run into him. Should you smile, wave or stop and chat? Should you go with a hello (formal), hi (dorky) or hey (too friendly)? When someone asks how you are, do you answer or keep moving? Are you supposed to greet TAs? How about random acquaintances? Does your half–smile look as twitchy as it feels? Was that a good interaction, or is your crush telling his friends you're a psychopath?
Then there's the Jessica problem. You've taken multiple classes with Jessica and your paths cross thrice daily. Even when you say "Hey Jessica," with sustained and direct eye contact, she refuses to acknowledge you. You've mortified yourself so many times that walking down Locust is an exercise in avoiding her.
In a school of thousands, you consistently run into the same 37 people. You don't even like most of them. It's no wonder some Penn students have given up. These naysayers wear blanket scarves that reach their noses, sunglasses and headphones that scream "don't talk to me." Others Usain Bolt their way to wherever they're going. If Locust were a 400–meter sprint, they would come in first every time. There are the frantic texters, the eye contact avoiders and the SABSers.
Locust is where Penn's concerns about image and ego come to light. At any given moment, you could run into anyone and everyone you've met at Penn. It's exposure, it's exhibition and it's no wonder people feel self–conscious. Our suggestion? Just get off your fucking phone and say hi.
Photo Credit: Autumn Powell.