Things to talk about while awkwardly brushing your teeth with your floor mates

Illustration of two people brushing their teeth
Bridget Long/File

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We all know the feeling. You walk into the bathroom at 1 a.m., hoping it’ll be empty, but alas, your dreams crumble before your eyes as you see four people standing there, baring their teeth into the mirror as their electric toothbrush whirs loudly. You’re stuck — you already walked in and exchanged the head nod and tight-lipped smile with the tooth-brushers. It’s too late to back away. So what do you do now? 

Talk about the weather

Who doesn’t love a good ol’ conversation about Berkeley’s inconsistent weather? And the good news is, you have a ton of topics at your disposal — you can talk about the current weather (for example, “Wow it’s really cold in this bathroom”), or if you want to be a real daredevil, you can even switch it up and talk about the past weather (“It was so hot earlier today!”). Either way, it’s definitely sure to get a really fascinating conversation going. After all, who isn’t passionate about Berkeley’s meteorological conditions?

The “how was your day?”

Another really great option is the classic, “How was your day?” It’s short, it’s simple, it’s sweet, and it forces the other person to have to talk instead of you. However, this one’s dangerous. It can go one of two ways. In the best-case scenario, your floormate will get into a long rant and describe every detail of their day while you breathe a sigh of relief. However, there’s also the risk of encountering the second option, in which they’ll simply look over and mutter a curt, “good.” In this case, you’re forced to nod along and make a dry and awkward comment that shows you were listening, like “nice.” And then, you’ll continue to stand in silence. Which is exactly what you were trying to avoid in the first place. But this time it’s even more awkward. So try this one at your own risk — we’ve warned you. 

Complain

What do you do after you’ve run out of things to say? Complain. You could go with the standard “Gosh, I’m tired,” or even venture into the fascinating “Boy, I sure am hungry.” If you want to be super unique, you can even complain about the moth infestation in your bathroom. After all, they fly into your face while you’re trying to floss, and they don’t even pay rent. Either way, you’re a college student there’s always something to complain about, and the options are limitless. Chances are that your fellow toothbrushers will happily complain with you.

Ask for their favorite color or their social security number

Who needs small talk if you can skip right to the juicy stuff and get to know someone’s whole life story through the power of Google’s conversation starters! You can start off easy by asking about their favorite ice cream flavor, or you can go straight to the deep and philosophical questions, such as their deepest trauma and insecurities, or even their social security number. This one’s definitely sure to get a fun conversation going. 

A cough a day keeps the neighbor away

When you reach the level of desperateness I like to call “operation run away,” all you need to worry about is avoiding conversation and maintaining silence, no matter what obstacles come in your path. And it’s a good thing you have a powerful weapon on your side. Some know it as the “Frat Cough.” Others, as the “Freshman Flu.” Whatever you call it, we’ve all been there: sitting in a silent lecture hall with tears coming out of your eyes as you try not to explode into a coughing fit and make your classmates silently move away from you in paranoia. But why not take advantage of it? When you don’t feel like making small talk, simply rip some paper towels to blow your nose in and loudly hack it up in the corner until the bathroom clears out and you have your precious alone time.

Put on AirPods and simply don’t 

The last option is to avoid this situation entirely by giving yourself a free people repellent: the mighty AirPods, relinquisher of awkward small talk. People will be intent on coming up to you in attempts with a casual, “how’s the weather?”, but alas, they’ll turn and see your little ear warrior, and back away. Works every time. 

We at the Clog hope this survival guide could be of service. Good luck and stay safe to all my fellow freshmen out there trying to survive their communal bathroom experience.

Contact Katherine Kudriavstev at [email protected].