The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Satire | Campus Scout | Scout’s definitive guide to small talk

Amy Sanchez

If the incessant screaming on the quads or the slight tinge of body odor that sweeps into one’s nostrils upon entering any Engineering building doesn’t give enough evidence already, then let it be known — campus is back in full swing.

It was this pungent scent that greeted Campus Scout upon returning to the University, stepping onto Bardeen Quad in the dead of night, lugging his stick with a red polka-dot sack tied to the end. After an exciting summer spent in new lands making new friends and learning new things, Scout couldn’t wait to return to the reliable stagnancy of the school year.

Looking around from his deck-chair perch on Foellinger Auditorium on the first day of school, Scout couldn’t help but notice the difficulty students, both happy ones and upperclassmen, have with simple social interactions.

Scout stopped counting the amount of times a student would be trapped in a conversation with a vague acquaintance from one class to another until the one who did not choose to enter the interaction made up a reason to turn down the opposite path and escape the relentless monotony of small talk.

Therefore, a decision has been made. Here, Scout commits to providing a definitive guide to navigating the most minute and irrelevant of social interactions to properly smooth out the cracks of an entire genre of minor gripes most of us experience on a daily basis. 

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What follows is a guide to dealing with the more challenging characters you may come across, and how to survive the small talk between you. 


The Vague Class Acquaintance

First off, why? 

There is no reason to keep up this friendship. You can’t be insecure enough that you can’t walk from Point A (the classroom door) to Point B (outside, aka where the sun is shining) without having a conversation. 

Conversations with this “friend” never amount to anything — half your brain energy during your interactions with them is devoted to frantically recalling their name, anyway. 

You see those people strolling along on their phone? They are happy. You know why? Because they’re not trying to be fake, like you.


The Info Boat

This friend earns this name because everyone rides their wake in times of dire need. 

This friend makes your life so easy — and for the low price of listening to them ramble on about their newest hobby (likely something unexpected like knitting or crocodile hunting or knitting crocodile plushies), how can you refuse their friendship?

Simply listen, and you shall receive. Push through the constant offers to drive to their lake house six hours away and enjoy the moderately easy lecture hall experience. 

All aboard the info boat — next stop, academic competency!


The Friend of a Friend

Picture this — you’re at a gathering and your heel is getting sore from leaning back, listening to how this individual knows someone in common who you yourself barely know. 

Now, the people walking past their head are becoming more interesting than the words they’re speaking. Your eyelids are getting heavy, and your eyes start following the passersby. 

Your eyes suddenly snap back to this person, and you search their gaze. Are they offended? Is that disapproval? 

Take a step back, trooper. Think for a moment if you really care that they’re offended in the first place.

Sure, their older brother roomed with their second-cousin-twice-removed for a month in their junior year in Fall 2006 back when their biggest worry was saving up for buying an apartment in two years.

They learned the hard way. You don’t have to.

Walk away.


The Random Dorm Roommate

Don’t talk to them. 

They won’t exist in a year. 


“Have You Heard the Good News?”

Yes, we have. We don’t have to listen to you.

It’s an age-old gripe, getting approached by the best and brightest of God’s bureaucracy on the Quad in the middle of the day, inquiring about your deepest moral and political beliefs (unfortunately, they’re often the exact same for them). 

The First Amendment is a fantastic thing, but it doesn’t require you to reevaluate your life choices when you’re just trying to be first in line at Tropical Smoothie Cafe. 

Commend these individuals on their admirable exercising of their rights to free speech, take a pamphlet you’ll find covered in dead gnats at the bottom of a drawer at the end of the year, and politely go on your way. 


Hopefully, this definitive guide to tolerating small talk with the many colorful (and deeply monotonous) individuals on campus assists anyone who despises the atrocious art of small talk. 

Social interaction out there is a jungle, and Scout is glad to help navigate it. Perhaps before the snow hits and he retreats into the steam tunnels to hibernate, Scout can tan up on Foellinger and see some truly happy students, free from the shackles of minute conversations. 


*Campus Scout writes opinion-based, satirical stories and uses fictional sourcing.*

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About the Contributors
Campus Scout
Campus Scout is The Daily Illini's satirical columnist and is quite the character. Their identity, as per tradition, is kept a secret. Scout is known to make riveting social commentary and uses only the most reliable (fictitious) sources. Scout has been a part of the University for decades, disappearing briefly but returning as a writer in 2021 to cause a ruckus about the things that matter.
Amy Sanchez
Amy Sanchez, Graphics Editor
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