Avoiding the Awkward Turtle and How to Cope if You Can’t

By Evan Caughey

Life on a college campus can be cramped (to say the least) — and because of this it has become entirely impossible to avoid coming into contact with the awkward turtle.

The turtle is a sneaky and unrelenting character. The best of us have all been exposed to its wrath: getting “caught” by a roommate, forgetting a towel when showering in a communal bathroom . . . the list is truly endless. It seems to me that awkward situations are simply a part of collegiate reality; all we can do to make ourselves feel better is relish in the pain of one another and learn from our communal mistakes. After all, one man’s awkward situation is another man’s comedic gold.

By Evan Caughey

My collegiate run-in with the awkward turtle occurred during my freshman year when BU placed me in a room with two sophomores who were already friends (clearly I was ecstatic). The girls, Kate* and Laura* were nice enough and we got along… until Laura started acting really distant and well, skanky. This caused a riff in the pre-existing sophomore friendship that automatically put me, the lowly freshman, in the middle. Our story climaxed when Laura revealed that she was moving out through a note taped to the TV (which was hers, of course). The move happened the following day while Kate and I hid at the frozen yogurt place across the street, making bitchy comments and watching Laura move out with the help of her minion followers. This seemingly never-ending game of cat and mouse wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, and there were things that all three of us involved in this situation should have done differently. Face to face confrontation would have been a good jumping off point that could also have spared my wallet the frequent trips to fro-yo. As far as I know, neither Kate nor myself has spoken to Laura since the incident occurred, paving the way for additional awkward run-ins throughout campus. It seems as though one can never avoid the ghosts of roommates past — especially when issues are left lingering.

For Regina*, (BU Grad 10’) running into the awkward turtle involved an unfortunate slip of the tongue. She explains, “Once I was doing a Grad presentation in a business class with a team and we were talking about packaged products. I was like ‘and now you’ll hear from Harrison whose going to show you his package’.” Clearly this presentation was meant to put more of an emphasis on frozen foods and less on poor Harrison’s private parts — but nonetheless, Regina was left feeling as though she has just become the inadvertent narrator of a porno. Although this situation may have left Regina’s ego a bit bruised, hilarity always helps to keep the situation light. When experiencing a slightly inappropriate slip of the tongue, laugh it off; give a little giggle, apologize, and continue on with your presentation like the professional that you are about to become. Handling a situation like this with grace can make you more likable to your classmates and show your professor a side of you that is both problem solving and charming. At the end of the day a case like Regina’s could actually work in your favor! Own your mistakes; everybody makes them.

Despite the universal nature of the awkward turtle, there are going to be times that you cannot resolve the issue on your own. Luckily for you, literature that gives advice on wiggling your way out of an awkward situation is plentiful, and such advice could be what makes the difference between a smooth comeback and a long-lasting feeling of regret (or shame). Although the site ‘The Ladders” is meant for giving career advice, author Marc Cenedella’s “6 Face-Saving Antidotes to Awkward Situations,” can easily be applied to student life.  Cenedella’s list may seem obvious; however, referencing it in a pinch- when we may not be thinking clearly- could be a source of both clarity and comfort.  The six antidotes include pieces of gold like: “ Never say ‘Well, this is awkward’.” This is a common mistake that I have personally experienced several times both on and off campus.  Although this statement may seem like an ice breaker, making the problem all the more obvious to the parties involved can easily increase the level of discomfort in the room. Sometimes we need to leave the pink elephant ALONE. Cenedella’s list also includes easy ways to get out of the situation like, “ Change the focus,” “Remove yourself,”  and my personal favorite, “Fake a phone call.” Be aware that faking a phone call involves a certain amount of finesse in order for it to be pulled off successfully. Even if you phone is on silent, the lack of any kind of vibrating ‘BUZZ’ scan give you away, making the situation worse. If you are the proud owner of an iPhone, which can vibrate on command through the push of an easily accessible button then you are golden: push away and run out of that room like your life depends on it, after giving a polite “excuse me, I have to take this,” of course.

More advice on quick exits from awkward situations can be found at the aptly named realsimple.com, where author Adam Bluestein provides us with ways to get out of more specific situations like answering a difficult question, fighting with a significant other, or a run-in with a former friend. The article, titled “Easy Ways to Exit Awkward Situations,” goes into depth on each of these startling situations the most applicable to college life being: “A Run-in with a Long-Lost ‘Pal’.” For this situation Bluestein explains that the easiest thing to do is feign enthusiasm without vaguely suggesting another meeting (lunch etc.). If this “Pal” is persistent in scheduling a meeting, he recommends that you do so on your own terms giving the example, “‘ I’d love to catch up on what you’re doing, but if we’re going to talk about that horrible personnel manager one more time, let’s call it off’.” There is no harm in meeting with the person once, if only to see if your opinion of them will change (just to give ’em the benefit of the doubt).

When in an awkward situation keeps two things in mind: there is probably a way out of this and someone has always been through worse. After all, misery loves company.

The brilliant pieces of advice featured in this article can be found at:



*All names have been changed upon request of the parties involved.

About Sarah Cox

Sarah Cox (CAS '11) writes "Socially Yours," a social manners column, for the Quad. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and is now living full time in Boston. She is studying Art History and hopes to stay on for her masters. One of her goals in life is to one day own a penguin. She would also like to stop dropping the F bomb so much -- class it up a little bit.

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