Almost every campus has a main walkway, central lawn, or main street. With hundreds to thousands of students walking around every day, it’s a marketers dream. Especially when the weather turns nicer and students are out in full force, hundreds of people will try to disturb your peaceful walk to class. People from all kinds of places will try to talk to you, hand you things, get you to sign up for things, offer to sell you useless items, ask you for spare change, and let you know that you haven’t been “saved” yet and that you’re going to hell because of it. It’s unfortunate the amount of students I see get cornered every day on their way to class. I myself am excellent at avoiding all people I don’t want to talk to, and so I figured I’d share some of my techniques. After reading this post, hopefully the next time someone wants you to sign up for a credit card, or open another bank account, you can walk right by confidently; saving both time and money.
1.Avoid all eye contact – The most common mistake students make when they are getting approached is making eye contact. If you look at them, then they know you notice them, and that gives them a window to approach you. No matter what your political leanings are, if you don’t want to be bothered, look away! Look down at your feet, look at your cell-phone, look at the person on the other side of the lawn, look at your mp3 player, or simply look up at the sky. If you don’t see them, then they don’t exist, and are therefore easier to avoid.
2. Pretend you don’t speak English – I first discovered this method when I was being harassed to sign a petition against some silly legislation that would have no effect on me or anyone I cared about. The eager young lady came towards me, clipboard in hand, ready to give me the lowdown on the issues. I simply looked at her and responded with pure gibberish. You’ll find that most people can’t tell what language you are speaking, and will therefore assume it is either Spanish or some sort of Eastern European dialect they’ve never heard. Be sure to sell it as well; act like you are so confused and stressed because they’ve approached you speaking a language that’s not your native tongue, and they will surely apologize and move on. Keep in mind, however, that this will be much more believable if you are close to the Medical Sciences or Engineering areas. If you are near a business school or one of the humanities, it’s a much tougher sell. Pretending to not know how to speak English is also a great activity if you are simply really bored.
3. Convince the Religious Zealot You are beyond saving – The Bible thumpers, and other religious converters seem to always be out in full force on nice sunny days when you are just trying to get to your lecture hall on time. For the ladies, it’s when you’re wearing your loveliest, and most revealing, spring outfits. It’s not that I’m opposed to religion; I’m just opposed to it being stuffed down my throat in the form of a pocket-sized Bible or a doomsday speech telling me about all the evils I have committed. I just don’t have time to conceptualize an eternity in hell for “rejecting” Jesus Christ when I am convinced that Calculus is my own personal hell on Earth. The best way to deflect these zealots is to simply convince them that there’s no way they can help you. Here are some five good answers to the question, “Have you been saved” which are sure to convince the person trying to prevent you from eternal damnation that you are beyond God/Jesus/Buddha/ Zeus/whoever’s saving graces:
1.“No, but I have two dads.”
2.“No, I’m a theatre major”
3.“I’m sorry; I have an appointment at Planned Parenthood I need to get to”
Of course, if you have time, you can always choose to argue with them. If they are fundamentalist, and take every word of the Bible as fact, simply point out factual inconsistencies between the Old Testament and New Testament. Or pose them a logical question. For Example, “If we all came from Adam and Eve, why aren’t we all inbred with extra limbs and hemophilia?” I actually asked a preacher this very question and he responded that it was God’s miracle. My, religious zealots say the darndest things.
4. Headphone happiness, the iPod effect – iPods are a wonderful thing. Without my headphones and iPod, I’d probably have at least 10 credit cards, 20 bank accounts, be on a petition for every issue in the state, and be a member of 15 different religious organizations. If you have headphones on, and music blaring, you are deaf to the world and can just groove on by. Even if you hear them through the music, you can pretend like you didn’t. A word of caution, however, this MUST be combined with avoiding eye contact, since if you make eye contact you are acknowledging their existence. It’s much harder to avoid them that way. Usually if I lock eyes with someone trying to sell me something by mistake, I very quickly look down at my iPod and change the track as I scurry by. Trust me, it works. Just be careful when crossing streets with your iPod on, because that can be very dangerous. However, there’s no iPod danger if you have a pacemaker, so feel free to rock on!
5. Sacrifice the student in front of you – This is a more underhanded technique that requires awareness and discretion. If you see someone passing out leaflets or approaching people with a sign-up sheet, find the nearest student in front of you. Slowly get closer to them and walk almost DIRECTLY behind them. The person handing stuff out will have to choose one of you, and will most likely go for the person in front. As they get assailed, you can nimbly jump around them and continue on, worry free. Be sure to look back and toss them a wicked grin if you see their face wincing as they are engaged.
WARNING: If the other student is excellent at using the techniques listed here, it could backfire, so choose wisely.
6. Pretend to get random cell-phone call – As you are walking towards the marketers or whoever, a nice easy move is to simply pull out your cell-phone and start talking. You can act like it’s an urgent call and break into a sprint as you pass the booth or station for added effect. This could also be combined with the “I don’t speak English” technique, because you can randomly start yelling gibberish into your phone.
7. The Watch-Check Fake Out – If you are approaching a group of people trying to talk to you, you can always use the “insanely late for class” technique, AKA, the “Watch Check Fake-Out.” Simply look at your watch as you are walking towards them, and be sure to have a noticeable look of terror and/or shock on your face. Then, simply break out into a full blown sprint. They’ll assume you’re late for something very important, and you’ll blow by them before they can even say a word. You can wait until you round a corner or building to stop running for posterity, or simply stop running once you’ve passed them. Either way, you will have just used an effective dodge technique.
8. Look extremely angry – No one wants to approach an angry person, because angry people don’t want to spend money or sign up for things. If you are approaching some marketers, just get the meanest scowl on your face that you can. If you have some trash, (like an apple core or an empty Starbucks cup), slam it on the ground angrily as you near the group. You can even yell a random expletive if you want to really scare them off. If it’s an army recruiter, you could just show them this defense-budget versus education-budget, and let him know how angry you are about it. Unless of course, the following graph strikes you as a proper allocation of taxpayer dollars.
9. Give THEM a leaflet – Another interesting technique is to actually hand them something instead of taking something from them. This is similar to a well-known Maddox technique of mailing junk mail from one company to another company. All you need is a spare piece of paper. It could be useless notes, old syllabi, or a sheet of paper that simply reads “No” or “I don’t want any.” As you see them reach out to hand you something, just quickly drop the piece of paper in their hand and move on. They will be stunned by the profound way you just turned the tables.
10. Cross the street or sidewalk – This is a more direct way of avoiding people trying to get your money or get you to sign up for things. If you see a group of people all wearing the same t-shirt, RUN. Cross the street, run across the lawn, or go hide behind a building until they are gone. Generally, if you can stay 10 to 15 yards away from them at all times, you’ll be safe.
11. Pretend to be deaf and/or blind – This is more difficult to pull off, but can be done if you have spare dark glasses, a walking stick, or are very good at acting like you can’t hear. If you see a marketing trap in your path, put on some dark glasses, take out your cane and just start tapping the ground. Chances are, they won’t bother you. If you have no cane or glasses available, just make a funny face when they talk to you and start moving your hands like you are communicating via sign language (flipping the bird is also an option, but may elicit a very negative response).