Somehow, my brother discovered this great hand signal. It's called "Awkward Turtle," and it comes in handy for a variety of social situations--more than I'd care to mention, actually. To perform the Awkward Turtle, follow these simple instructions:
1) Place your left hand palm down on the table in front of you (these moments generally seem to occur in restaurants and bars), with your thumb perpendicular to the hand.
2) Place your right hand palm down on top of the left, with the thumb perpendicular to your hands.
3) Your hands should now, albeit vagely, resemble a turtle--you may have to think about it pretty hard, but bear with me. Okay. Turtle.
4) Now, raise your thumbs off the table slightly and rotate them in full circles (counter-clockwise is best) to make your turtle "walk."
As you get better at this, you'll find that you won't need a table, but can perform the gesture in mid-air. At this point you might feel like improvising--it's up to you.
Now, when would you want to use the Awkward Turtle?
Well, an excellent example could be given from last night. Morgan and I have a table in the window at the Temple Bar. We're eating dinner, drinking wine and talking when a former professor of ours strolls in (for those of you that know, we'll call him "Professor Lockhart") with a woman that I assume is his wife. They order a bottle of champagne and sit at the table next to ours, and because it's still early, ours are the only two taken tables in the bar.
By the time Prof. Lockhart makes his way over to our table to say hi, he's lapped us several times in the drinks department (they've polished off the champagne and are now into rounds of beer--we're slowly savoring our second glasses of wine)--an overly enthusiastic, but hugely awkward conversation ensues, made extra awkward by the fact that the last time I saw him he was also a bit tipsy, and admitted to a large group of people that he had lied to my class (and the college) about one of his kids being sick in order to quit his post before the end of the quarter.
A few years pass. The conversation draws to a shuddering, painful halt and he's still standing at our table. "Okay!" He says loudly, and claps. "I'll leave you guys alone!" And off he goes.
This an excellent opportunity for the Awkward Turtle. I do not let it pass.