Often when you are out and about, you will see somebody you don't like and wish to avoid them. The purpose of this Entry is to give you some tips on doing this successfully. These people shall be referred to as PTA: People/Person To Avoid. There are many sorts of these, including ex-boyfriends/girlfriends1, annoying children, people you just don't like, people who don't like you, Mafia members who wish to break your knees with a crowbar, or your father-in-law.
Make a List
A man cannot be too careful in his choice of enemies.
- Oscar Wilde
This is not always necessary, but it can be useful to make a list of the PTA. You can do this anywhere you like: in your head, on your computer, mobile phone, hand-held computer or the old fashioned way, a piece of paper or even a small notebook.
Disliking certain people is perfectly acceptable and natural, but be concerned if you have covered both sides of the paper, filled the notebook or maxed-out the information storage space on your computer, and still have more people to add. If you find yourself in this position, you might consider getting a job that enables you to work from home. You can do your grocery shopping online and have it delivered. This will minimise contact with other people. Alternatively, you could see a psychiatrist.
However, one downside to making a list is that someone else could find it accidentally. This would lead to an extremely awkward situation, especially if that person happens to be on the list.
Identify Problem Areas
In other words, work out where the PTA on your list are likely to be. If you are trying to avoid an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend, it is not a wise idea to visit their place of business or take a stroll along their street. Sometimes it is impossible, or very impractical, to avoid certain danger areas, but with a bit of forward planning the risks can be reduced.
Avoiding People at Home
This can be easier than it sounds. It all depends on your living arrangements. If you are a child living at home with your parents, and they are the PTA, the obvious solution is to shut yourself in your bedroom. While you're at it, you might clean your room, thus reducing your need to avoid them. Parents usually figure out that you are trying to give them a wide berth and will give you your space, but there is nothing to stop them intruding. After all, it is their house, and they might have a sledgehammer to open your door easily. Barring that instance, the following technique probably has a 75% success rate and is the best option open to you. For the older child living at home, the option with the highest success rate is staying out all day and night. It is unlikely that your family members will frequent the same pubs2 and other hang-outs as you, so there should be no problems there. Similarly, staying out until early morning will have the same effect. If you are at home, shutting yourself in your room will also be effective, but, as with younger children, you may have to suffer the intrusive parent.
Other options available to the parents or adults are to pretend to be asleep (or actually sleep) or immerse yourself in important-looking housework such as hoovering, washing-up or doing the laundry. Using loud power tools can discourage interruption and explain lack of response when someone calls you. You could lock yourself in the bathroom and have a nice bubble bath, which is also a great stress reliever.
Avoiding People at Work
The office dullard is a clever foe, but there are ways you can beat him.
- Strong Bad
If possible, arrange your shifts so they do not coincide with that of the PTA. If you do not want to make it obvious you are avoiding them, tell them your home circumstances have changed (other half works night shift, for example) and you can no longer work the same shifts, as much as you'd love to.
Unfortunately, a simple shift change is not always possible, so more advanced avoidance techniques must be employed. If you work in an office, never ever walk into the stationery cupboard at the same time as the PTA. Firstly, these are usually confined spaces with little room for manoeuvre, and secondly the reason you are in there is for stationery, or a rendezvous with another colleague you actually like. Either way, excusing yourself may be difficult. Make sure the coast is clear before making your way to the cupboard.
Lunchtime can be hazardous, but it needn't be. Chances are you do not go to lunch with the PTA, but if you happen to go to the same place, simply go somewhere else. Do this as much as you have to, or until you run out of sandwich shops. Even then hope is not lost. Try to leave for lunch a little later to find out where he or she is going, and go somewhere else. Alternatively, pack your own lunch and stay behind, thus avoiding the PTA and any other PTA that you might meet while away from the workplace.
Avoiding People at School
A tricky situation, but there are options. Probably the most likely person at school you would want to avoid is the bully. Try sitting close to the door so you can leave the classroom quickly, then they can't ambush you in the hall. Keep your locker tidy so you don't have to spend too much time rummaging around in it, thereby decreasing your chances of getting shoved into it. Whenever you can, stay within sight of a teacher.
Avoiding People in Public
Everybody needs to go shopping, but what happens when you spot a PTA at the local supermarket? Do you fight hunger and avoid buying soap powder to wash dirty clothes, and simply leave the store? Or do you go in full of confidence and accept the consequences? The best solution is somewhere in between: skulking.
The great thing about supermarkets is the shelves, they are high enough to hide behind. If you see a PTA, go to a different aisle and skulk around a bit, making use of your peripheral vision to spot them at the top of the aisle. If you see a PTA in your aisle, on no account make eye contact. Simply turn and walk off in the other direction as casually as possible. This can be done for the entire trip with varying degrees of success. Listening to an iPod or other portable music player will explain a lack of reaction when your name is called, and holding a breakfast cereal box up to your face, pretending to check the sugar content or allergen information will provide the perfect excuse for not noticing a PTA. You can also pretend to be talking on a mobile phone, then if they notice you, you can vaguely acknowledge their presence but gesture that you are busy. They should leave you alone then.
Checkouts may be problematic, but some more skulking should solve all problems. Wait until your PTA has been served before going to the checkout yourself. If possible, go to another checkout, but not one closer to the door than the PTA's. This makes you more likely to be spotted.
If you are unfortunate enough to find yourself in the same checkout queue as a PTA, probably your only option is to hide behind a tabloid newspaper or soap opera/fashion/health magazine, of which there are many on display in the checkout queue, and pretend that you are actually interested in how you can lose 20 pounds in three days, or how Angelina cheated on Michael in last week's episode.
When out for a drink, avoid quiet pubs. Go to the big ones where you can sit in a corner surveying the crowd or, to make you even more indistinguishable, read a book. Consume your drink slowly to reduce the number of trips to the bar and save money at the same time.
Avoiding People on Holiday
Whilst in Sharm-el-sheikh, I found the 'pester' level that tourists are subjected to by all the shopkeepers/bar/restaurant owners was quite overwhelming. Now, I always carry a pashmina (big scarf) with me, and as the evening was getting cold, I wrapped it around my head. The pester level was noticeably reduced, and I even heard one ask me if I was a Muslim. Note that this technique works best with a long skirt and covered arms - less effective in a bikini and high heels.
- An h2g2 Researcher.
The best way to keep people from noticing you is, of course, disguise! Hiding your features in public on the spur of the moment is easier than you think. Simply carry with you at all times a selection of small, portable objects like sunglasses, a hat or a small book or magazine to hide behind. If you are a woman, you can disguise yourself in style with a bonnet or scarf to wrap your head in, along with large sunglasses3. These methods are much better than the rudimentary, primitive method of simply covering your face with your hand. Chances are, this will draw even more attention to yourself and might look suspicious to the police if there happen to be any in the vicinity.
Your Last Option
- King Arthur, from Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Learn From Your Mistakes
If your initial attempts at avoidance are useless, do not be discouraged. Try to figure out where you went wrong and learn from your mistakes. All may seem lost at first, but if you work at it you will become an avoidance expert, seeing only those who deserve to be seen. If you do end up in a tedious conversation with someone, you don't really need to pay attention very much. Just constantly nod, say 'Yeah ... yeah ... uh huh ...' every so often, grin stupidly and giggle at things that sound like they are supposed to be jokes. Don't forget the ultimate fail-safe: look a bit embarrassed, then say sheepishly, 'Sorry, I hope you can't smell that, I desperately need the toilet...', start squirming, and they should disappear fast enough.