When I call you up, your line’s engaged — at least I am praying it will be

fone fear

It was gratifying to read from a Facebook friend how she is unnerved by a ringing telephone. Now, she is a person whom I thought would be abrim with the kind of fearlessness that would enable her to wrestle tigers, so I was impressed by her candor.

I was impressed because I share phone angst. While there might be those who are thrilled to hear a call coming in, the effect on me is a tightening in the gut and the perennial question: “Who the (coitus) is that now?” I am hopeful it’s a telemarketing asshole and then call-display enables me to not respond. Love call display, by the way. A bit of tech that makes life more tolerable and removes a lot of stress. So, in short, I don’t like receiving calls and I don’t like making them.

My newspaper job often demanded I stick on the phone virtually all day and cold call people left, right and centre. Cold calls are, of courses, the worst. If I needed to make a call I would do a number of things to avoid the task. Phone angst and procrastination are part of the same mix. So, I would go to the lunch room and replenish my coffee. If somebody else was there I would chat like there was no tomorrow, even if the other person was somebody I didn’t particularly like. On the way back I would decide I needed to pee, so I would stop off at the loo. Finally I would reach my desk and the inevitable task would present itself. Sometimes during the interim I’d get an intervening call. Regardless of whom the caller might have been I’d chat away amiably. Then, in those heavy smoking Mad Men days I’d light a cigarette. I would peruse my notebook and etch out some questions I wanted to ask the projected recipient of the call. By that time my cigarette would have been gone, and I’d light another prior to inserting my finger on the dial and praying all the while to the person to be out in those pre answering machine days.

anxiety catI suffer from telephone anxiety for a number of reasons and am only grateful that I no longer have to call up some girl to plaintively ask for a date – nothing is more agonizing – and to wait in dread just in case her father answers. Fathers know why you are calling their daughter; you are calling her because you want to have sex with her, even though there’s not the remotest chance of that happening. There’s possibly not the remotest chance of her even wanting to go out with you and she will make some lame excuse not even much more imaginative than that she planned to wash her hair that evening.

Anyway, those days are gone. But still the phone will ring and the ringing phone will violate my privacy. Doesn’t matter about the reason for the call. It may even be a return from a call I made earlier leaving a message for the person to call me. The usual response to those calls is “Oh, shit. I guess I have to talk to him/her now.”

I suspect part of my problem with the phone is that I am a bit of an introvert and when the phone rings or I am forced to make a call then I am not in control of the situation. Introverts just hate not being in control. It leaves us feeling trapped.

So, when I look around me at modern phone culture; at all the bizarre people talking or texting on their mobiles I can only think there is very little hope for the world if the extraverts are taking over and regarding their talking devices with affection and even obsession to the degree they cannot be left without them.

So, I am happy my friend shares my angst. It makes me love her even more. If we both weren’t in our own relationships then I think she and I would live very happily together.

I think that call is for you.”

No it’s not. I got it last time.”

Aw, come on.”


10 responses to “When I call you up, your line’s engaged — at least I am praying it will be

  1. I feel so much better to know someone else shares my angst. Sometimes I think I would just prefer not to talk to anyone, and if I have to, please let it be on my terms and timing!

  2. Seems like there are a lot of us out there. I HATE talking on the phone. I have no land line, only a cell, and I use it for texting and taking pictures (or at least i did until the camera crapped out on me). Oh, and as an alarm clock. Of the 300 minutes I’m allowed a month, if I make it to 20, it’s a big month phone wise. Total hate.

  3. Totally agree with you, Ian (and Jane and Jazz). Do NOT like talking on the phone, never have, never will!

  4. I am not one to enjoy talking on the phone either. The list of those I talk with on the phone is narrow. At work I have to call students about various things and I do not like it, but since I am low man on the totem pole, it falls to me. I am actually happy when I can just leave a message! I am great speaking face-to-face, maybe a tad too talkative at times, but it feels more personal. And you can see reactions. When talking on the phone I can imagine the person on the other end yawning, rolling their eyes, aping me, just being silly.

  5. I spend hours and hours on the phone and love it. I have an earpiece with my phone and go all over the house doing things while talking. However, I have days that I want to be alone with my thoughts and dread when the phone rings. I guess I’m pretty inconsistent (ambivalent?) about the phone. I was SO happy no one called me today, but I’ll probably want to catch up with some friends tomorrow.

    • Judging from Wendy and her friend Rosie they can spend almost entire days chatting with each other. I think women are more comfortable with phones than men are.

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