Oh, gotta love awkward moments. In retrospect, anyway. They are so much fun to laugh about after they happen, but while they are happening things are just so uncomfortable and…well, awkward.
The epitome of an awkward situation, is when you’re walking along happily, when you see far ahead of you someone who you know. But you don’t know them so well; you kind of know them a little. They are the type of person you might have met only once or twice, or you’ve seen around, and you might not even know their name. You are far enough away that you wouldn’t be able to hear them if they said hello, and so as you walk towards each other, you wait for them to get close enough to see if they’ll say hello.
Suddenly, their eyes fall onto yours and you see that they see you, and their eyes light up and they smile and start waving. Being the naturally reciprocating beings that we are, you smile back and start to wave as well. You are happily surprised because you weren’t sure if they remembered you, or if they were friendly enough that they would wave. You aren’t friends, after all, and this kind gesture comes as a slight shock. By this point in your thought process you are now slightly suspicious, and the slightly guilty look on the other person’s face confirms your suspicions.
Almost in slow motion, you nervously turn you head behind you and see someone else, who I’ll call Person #3, waving excitedly at your acquaintance. You had every right to be surprised that the person who you knew was waving at you, since as it turns out, they were not waving to you at all, but rather the person behind you. At this point, you are now in earshot of each other and you hear the person say to you half-heartedly and awkwardly, “Oh, um, hey, um, yeah, um…,” and then they continue walking and give an enthusiastic “HEY!!!!” to the person who they were really trying to wave to.
You continue walking, as well, slightly flushed and slightly lacking in confidence. If you’re quick at getting over things, then you walk a few steps more, laugh to yourself and think, “Wow, that was awkward!”
If you overanalyze this situation and replay it in your head, then at some point you wonder, “Well, what else should I have done?” After all, if they had in fact been waving at you, then it would have been plain rude not to wave back. If you’re not sure, it is far more polite to err on the friendlier side than to possibly offend them. Putting them in an awkward position is much better than hurting their feelings by not waving back.