Show of hands, please: who can agree with “I Don’t Like Talking on the Phone?” OK, maybe I’m projecting, but I doubt it. Making (and receiving) phone calls now ranks near the bottom of my “things I enjoy” list. Scratch that; it’s at the top of my “things I can’t stand” list.
I thought so. And really, I’m not sure when this happened. As a teenage girl, of course, I LOVED talking on the phone. I could have lived on that phone. As for today’s teenage girls, well, yes, they live on their phones, but they’re not actually, you know, talking on them.
In this case, as uncomfortable as I am admitting this, I look just like those teenage girls (ok, I don’t look like them physically, but my “face buried in my phone” pose is exactly like theirs).
Don’t Answer That!
Here’s a great read in the Atlantic, “Why No One Answers Their Phone Anymore“. In my case, however, I can’t count myself among the people who don’t answer because of robocalls or scammers. No, I rarely answer anyone. This aversion to answering can probably be traced back to my children’s middle-school years, which roughly coincided with what, in our world anyway, became an explosion of “always-on” technology, the time when children slid down the slippery slope of just “calling Mom or Dad” instead of getting themselves out of jams. As a societal trend, this ranks near my Top Ten List of Why My Childhood Was Better (and get off my lawn, by the way). In all seriousness, I’m a big fan of “Free-Range Parenting”, and Lenore Skenazy; you can learn more at https://letgrow.org/. I had no chance of reaching my parents as a kid, and if I had found a way to do so, the conversation would have required me to admit that I’d done something stupid, which I avoided at all costs.
Oh No! It’s Ringing
Soon after the little darlings realized that they could reach me just about anytime, I noticed something peculiar about my ringtone (remember when buying ringtones was a thing?). No matter what ringtone I had, after a few days, it began to sound like the theme from Jaws. (By the way, even Matt Juul at Boston.com argues that this theme is still terrifying.) At that age, they didn’t yet possess the social graces of adults (yeah, I know, my fault) – you know, the ones like “Be sure to ask how someone is before immediately launching into your dire request for something incredibly trivial that you need right now.”
Even after they learned to begin with a feigned concern for my well-being, it was still followed, 99% of the time, with a request for my money/time/other precious commodity of which I had too little. In fact, one of the ways I realized that they were finally adults was the first time each of them called just to…talk. The first few times that happened were shocking, and left me suspicious. Eventually, I got used to it, and you will, too, but it won’t make you like the phone any better. No, your kids’ adolescence beat that joy out of you for good.
The Caller’s Dilemma
The flip side (pun intended) of receiving calls is, of course, making them. Some time ago (after the Jaws episode but before the last child left home), I found that I had also developed an inordinate resistance to making phone calls. To anyone: The pizza place. My doctor. Our insurance company. My kids (kidding, kind of). At this point in my life, I hate making calls even more than I hate getting calls. Yesterday, I had to make five – FIVE! – phone calls. I thought I would die. Usually, if I have to make just one phone call, it takes days of steeling myself, days of practicing my best Avoidance Behavior before I run out of things that must be done and warily pick up the phone. I don’t know why; it’s almost as if I had some lifetime supply of willingness to talk to people, and I’m coming up against the last reserves of it, the dregs in the bottom of the glass. And it tastes just about as good.
Part of it may also be that some calls are just harder now. For example, you might have to go through 87 prompts to actually get to the person you need. Or, as in the case of a recent software problem, I was (I am not making this up) on the phone with Tech Support for four hours because the support person couldn’t figure out how to solve the problem. During that odyssey, fixing the problem involved me taking the terrifying step of letting this complete stranger take over my computer while I watched, transfixed, as he navigated through my files and made some scary-looking changes. (Admit it: the entire internet is based on us trusting complete strangers. Sometimes that works out, and sometimes it doesn’t.) Luckily, in this case, it all worked out, and the problem was indeed fixed. But four hours on the phone! After that, I didn’t make or receive calls for weeks.
How to Never Talk on the Phone Again
Thankfully, there are now myriad ways you can avoid talking on the phone: Chat windows. Text. Facebook messages. Twitter. Instagram. Pinterest. You can even make Craigslist deals without ever talking on your phone. The world is full of endless opportunities to avoid the sound of another human voice. The best and worst part is that all of those mechanisms now save all of your conversations. This comes in particularly handy when you have a tantrum/say something you didn’t mean/otherwise embarrass yourself. Come to think of it, maybe I should pick up the phone more often.
ringtone note, enjoy this little stroll down Memory Lane, the incomparable “One Less Bell to Answer.” As for me, one less bell to answer now sounds like heaven.⧉