Meeting new people is always an interesting experience. There are all sorts of ways to meet people, too many to list here. You'd think there would be some sort of conventional way to meet new people, but that would probably take the fun out of things.

For most encounters in which social pleasantries are exchanged, there are some rules to keep in mind. These generally apply to instances that won't last more than a few minutes, hopefully, but don't quote me on that.

Tuesday, I was introduced into an entirely new situation, one for which I was not in the least prepared. Allow me to set the stage.

I had a nice, relaxing lunch with a few friends after class, in the Student Union Building (we call it the "sub", for obvious reasons). After eating, we stayed a while longer and chatted. Eventually, my lunch-mates had to leave, and I was left alone at the table. Not having anything to do, save an obnoxious amount of reading homework, I decided that I was too lazy to leave, and so stayed put. Out came the books, and a-reading I went.

When I read, I generally don't like a bunch of noise around me. The sub is always noisy, but for some reason, I was not bothered by the noise. I was able to get a surprising amount of reading accomplished, and I was feeling very pleased with myself.

I was oblivious to the goings-on around me, and did not particularly care that the area was full, and people were wandering around trying to find a place to sit. I had my table, that was all that mattered.

But then, as luck should have it, along comes a random guy (whom i'll call Joe). He hovers around my table, just enough to be caught in my peripheral vision, and when I look up he says:

"Do you mind if I sit here?"

I give him points for not asking the rhetorical "Is anyone sitting here?" question. Still, I'd be a total jerk not to let someone share the table. So I say:

"Not at all. Go right ahead."

Joe then thanks me and sits down, and dumps his stuff on the ground and his food on the table. I return to my book, where I quickly become engrossed once again, taking advantage of this weird preoccupation with my homework.

Now, I'm guessing you know of at least one person who, when in the company of others, lacks the ability to simply sit there in silence. Joe was one such person. Despite the fact that we didn't know each other, the silence was killing him. This is just a guess, but Joe was deficient in perceptivity. I say this because, as I was clearly not in a very social mood (as evidenced by my intense focus on the work at hand), Joe decided to break the silence and make small talk.

I did my best to only barely respond, trying to hint at the fact that now just wasn't the time for conversation. But Joe pressed further, and launched into a monologue about himself, what he's studying, his little girlfriend, and whatever else came to mind.

Figuring that I just couldn't win, I tried to salvage things by steering the conversation to more mundane and uninteresting topics. No luck in that department. We talked about physics and astronomy, topics which Joe steered to, given that he's majoring in something to that effect.

I was running out of ideas. How does one get another to stop talking and leave you alone? After several failed attempts, I settled on a new tactic: ask questions (on topic) to which the guy has no idea what the answer is. To my surprise, this worked! I asked about black holes, and worm holes, two things I find fascinating but don't know much about (and neither does anyone else, luckily). Joe didn't know much about that, and had only vague answers to share. I continued to talk about this stuff, and Joe eventually grew weary of my persistence, and decided he had better get going.

I made sure to add "It was very nice to meet you" before he left. I couldn't help it. It's the nice guy in me. And after he left, I was able to return to what I was doing.

Whew. What an ordeal.