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Column: Oh crap, they were not waving at me

The older I get, the more I like to be at home.

This is a drastic change from when I started working as an adult and would usually just be home to sleep. There was always something to do, and I would get stir-crazy if I had to spend more than a couple of evenings in a row at my house.

As much as I like the friendly confines of where I live, my job requires me to get out in public quite a bit, which is good so that I don’t become a complete hermit.

Much of my time out of the house is spent covering different things. A lot of times, this is at a sporting event. I’m at a game a few times a year and have one of those awkward moments that make me want to run to the car immediately.

Near the end of the basketball season, I was heading back from grabbing water at the concession stand when I saw somebody wave and say hi. I had only met the person once but was pleasantly surprised they said hello, so I decided to be social and say hello and ask how you were back.

It turns out the friendly person was saying hello to someone standing directly behind me. In this circumstance, there isn’t much you can do other than shake it off and slowly inch away from the situation.

After feeling pretty stupid for the next ten minutes, I started to watch the game and moved on from the encounter. During a timeout, someone close to where I was sitting said hello. Once again, I should have looked behind me because I realized they were not talking to me shortly after saying hello.

It turns out that feeling stupid once was not good enough for me that evening. I had it happen twice. I would not talk to any of these people if they sat beside me and called me by my name.

I hope this happens to other people because I don’t want to be alone in this awful experience.

Unfortunately, it sometimes can be just as awkward when I do get into a conversation with someone.

While it will never be as bad as the time, I ended a phone interview for a story by telling the person, “Love you.” I have been known to end a conversation with a real zinger.

I can remember interviewing a coach once. They said thanks for coming to cover the game, and I responded, “You too.” Why on earth did I decide to respond with that? I am still trying to figure it out. I guess I’m a creature of habit with the “you too.”

Being out of the house more might help me with some of these social interactions.

There was a time when I was good at small talk, but sometimes I feel at a loss for words once the conversation transitions past the weather.

When I worked at a bigger newspaper, there were always quite a few people in the office, and we would talk all day about various subjects, often to the point it was a bit distracting to get anything done. It was about eight hours a day of nothing but small talk, something I don’t get a lot of these days.

I may need to go on a trip that requires me to fly on a plane.

I used to fly quite a bit, but I last went on a plane when flying to Las Vegas in 2016. So that means I’ve gone nearly a decade without a conversation with an “airplane” stranger.

Whenever I fly somewhere, I’m stuck next to the most talkative person in the world. Before takeoff, I’m about into high school of their life story.

Sometimes the stranger on the plane will also bring some fast food they got while waiting for the plane. It’s a joy to smell the grease as they tell me about their new lawn mower.

A social interaction like this may freshen up my skills. It probably won’t help with my problem of waving and saying hello, though.