Third wheeling is almost never voluntary and almost always starts with that innocent exclamation, “Hey, guys, let’s all *insert fun group activity* in *insert nearby city or shop that is far enough away to be considered a day trip.*” Four or five of your friends initially volunteer. Two of them are dating but that’s not a big deal, right? You can just hang out with the others, right? These are all warning signs that a third wheel catastrophe is about to strike. If you ignore these red flags and end up abandoned on a bus at the last second with the two lovebirds, your only real option is to embrace the situation and be the best third wheel that any friend or tricycle could ask for. Here’s how:
Bring Your Phone
The number one thing to keep in mind when your two friends start holding hands and fondling each others earlobes is that, at that point in time, your phone must become the most interesting device you have ever owned. Admire the touch-screen technology that has suddenly regained its novelty. Purchase every application you’ve ever debated getting. (A ghost-hunting app? Sure! You’ve always considered yourself an adventurer after all! A stapler app? Why not! The soothing sound of staples pushing through stacks of paper has always peaked your interest.) Contact everyone you’ve ever talked to since you learned how to text. The elementary school teacher that taught you how to read? You never formally thanked them. Their number is probably somewhere on the internet. If not, find the book online and read it in their honor. This step also requires that you learn to walk and stay glued to the screen at the same time so take precaution. However, just know that if, by the end of this debacle, you can’t parkour and read the NYTimes.com at the same time, you are a second wheel at best.
Partially Participate in Conversations
You have essentially tagged along on what is now a date between your two friends, which automatically adds some complexity to your situation because you must establish a balance between their private moments and your group moments. General commentary about things like your crazy science professor or the dateability of older celebrities is acceptable, but once the conversation drifts into Valentine’s Day plans, it is your duty to develop an interest in your surroundings and avoid jokingly suggesting romantic date destinations like Chuck E. Cheese.
Maintain an Appropriate Distance
This is similar to the previous point but in the physical sense. Let’s say you reach the point in your extended date where person one and person two are interlocking fingers and snuggling as they’re walking. After you swallow your crippling lonliness, slowly let yourself drift behind the couple if you haven’t done so already. (This shouldn’t be a huge deal because, if you are repeat third wheel offender, you know that sidewalks were only made for two people anyway.) Just for extra clarification, the following actions are prohibited: slipping your hand between theirs while announching the start of a “hand cuddle puddle,” separating them with your arms like the Red Sea for the purpose of feeling more included, poking one and saying that the other did it, stepping on their ankles, walking so close in front of them that they are forced to step on your ankles, trying to maintain a conversation while walking backwards, etc.
Make a Mental List of All the Things You’d Rather Be Doing
– Pull aching tooth with tweezers.
– Build a house of cards. Must touch the ceiling to qualify.
– Sculpt a toilet replica.
– Start planning your younger sibling’s future wedding (because you know they’re getting married before you).
– Fill a bathtub with spiders. Soak in it for a few hours.
– Skydive without a parachute.
– Watch a farmer decapitate a chicken.
– Spoon out eyeballs.
– Write a dissertation on the process of writing a dissertation.
– Pluck out each individual hair one-by-one from your entire body.
– Wake up to a zombie apocalypse.
– Wake up to a killer bee apocalypse.
– Wake up to a zombie AND killer bee apocalypse.
Et cetera. These thoughts will keep you entertained for the remainder of the day.
Wish for a Distraction
Remember that one person in high school that you would duck around corners and hide under desks to avoid because they would never stop talking? That is the person you want to run into because if you can’t interact with your friends for the entirety of the day, you might as well run into someone to occupy your time. And who knows. If you’re lucky, you can tag along with them until you find the nearest train station and make a quick escape. Problem solved.
Come with us, they said. It will be fun, they said. This is the start to every basic third-wheeling disaster. If, for some reason, you manage to overlook the warning signs, I hope this guide helps make you the best third-wheel friend in history. You might as well make the best of a bad situation, after all.