Sunday, September 08, 2013

Phone fear

I agree, these are all excellent reasons to hate talking on the phone, and I also hate talking on the phone for these reasons.

But I have a previous problem, I don't just hate talking on the phone, I hate answering the phone. The phone ringing can never be a good thing.

Very simply, if the phone rings, it means someone wants to talk to me, and since there are really only about two or at most three people living on planet earth who do not scare me, I mostly don't really ever want to be talked to.

The problem is that you can never predict what other people will say or do, and it's nearly always something bad. They want to yell at you for something you've done, or written, or they want you to do something that you don't want to do, like leave the house ... or talk on the phone.

And even if it's the best thing in the world, like they've made you king of a tiny European nation and the job comes with a really great free house and a butler, it is always going to be interrupting my train of thought, and I hate that.

Also if the phone rings, I have to open it up to see who it is, and if it's someone scary (nearly everyone) I am now stuck with a conundrum: do I wait until it finishes ringing (nine or ten rings) so the Scary Person on the phone will think I'm not home or maybe have left my phone somewhere, or some other innocuous thing and doesn't think I'm standing there wishing he/she hadn't phoned me; or do I just hang up by closing the phone, thereby cutting the rings off early and giving away that I am hanging up on him/her? The longer I sit there letting the phone ring, the worse I feel, but if I look and it's someone scary, I am afraid to make the Scary Person mad by hanging up.

It's kind of like squashing a spider. You don't actually want to squash the spider, because what if you miss or what if you squash it and it springs back to life and takes some kind of horrifying zombie-spider revenge?

I have a landline that I never use. The service came as a package with the internet, and my mobile phone is a separate thing that costs me about double the cost of the phone I never use. The phone itself is a treasure, a beautiful black 1937 bakelite art deco job, converted to a modern wall jack. It weighs about ten pounds. I know because I hauled it all the way here from Toronto.

Sometimes it rings, and I feel great about ignoring it because I've never, ever given out the number to anyone, so if it is ringing I know for sure it's telemarketers. Every now and then I make a call out on my beautiful antique landline just for the pleasure of dialing the wonderfully machined dial thing.

Someone once asked me, in a very forceful way, for my landline number, and I almost told him that the fact that he was demanding it was the reason I was certainly never, ever going to give it to him. A person like that might do anything. He might even phone you on your landline! I didn't tell him that though, because I thought it would make him mad and start yelling at me.

This fear of the ringing phone is very much like my more generalised fear of the outside world, and has to stem from my childhood, when I was in constant terror of being abandoned by my parents who never did anything but scream at each other. I never knew what horrifying disaster was coming, but I knew it was going to be bad. I remember I used to hide in a cabinet when they were going at it. Then, when they actually did abandon me, (several times between seven and 15) I guess I figured that the thing you fear the most is actually the thing that is most likely to happen, because it did.

It's subsided in recent years, like most of my general fears. I guess just having been functional as a grownup for a couple of decades will do this. (It's really awful being young, thank God it doesn't last forever). I used to jump whenever the phone rang, and just stare at it like a bird at a snake, until it stopped making that horrible noise. Caller ID helped a little, but it still makes me jump still if it shows a Rome number the phone doesn't recognise because for a couple of years, that meant a doctor was calling me, which was always bad news. Really bad.

In general, I think the phone was a bad idea. I wish we could have moved straight from letters to the internet. Which I like a lot. But probably for bad reasons.



Lucy said...

I used to feel ill if I had to phone someone, especially if it had to do with work. There's something so wrong about conversations with disembodied voices...

Anonymous said...

I dislike making phonecalls about business type things. I understand your anxiety about the phone though.

It's kind of like squashing a spider. You don't actually want to squash the spider, because what if you miss or what if you squash it and it springs back to life and takes some kind of horrifying zombie-spider revenge?

LOL! I always thought I was the only person who had such thoughts!


Teresa B. said...

When I grew up we were discouraged from answering the phone.
Talking to someone on the phone was a treat.Most calls were long distance so children weren't allowed to talk on the phone.

I would be your worst nightmare!
Now, I can talk on the phone forever.
My phone book is a 3 inch binder and I try to go through and call people I know at least once every 2 years unless I go out and visit with them.
I have this thing about losing touch with people.
I will tell them virtually everything that has happened to me and my family and then find out what is happening with them etc...
Some of it is small talk and some of it depending on who it is - can get quite deep.
Though if it is an awful night out, snow or rain etc... and the phone rings my heart skips a beat - thinking something is wrong with my husband as he is driving home.

Ususally the people who hate to talk on the phone are the ones where I would use more humour, sarcasm and bantering but that is just me.

Anonymous said...

I hate the phone too and it gets worse as I get older. The worst thing is the mobile phone - it gives some people the idea that they can call you any time, day or night, and that you will drop everything for them, even if you are at work, or doing the grocery shopping or engaged in a social visit.

I long for the days of letter-writing to return...


Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

The day I found myself trying to answer my mobile phone while I was riding my bike, while the phone was in my handbag in the front basket, while I was trying to turn left in a busy intersection, was the day I knew the mobile had got hold of my brain. I should have won the Darwin Award that day.

BillyHW said...

People only call me when they want something from me, or want me to do something for them.

Maxine said...

I was once a very nervous person especially if I had to speak to a man on the phone. I do not know why this happened and why it has changed but I am ok with it now.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

The phone is a bad invention for those of us with crippling social anxieties.

But in another way, the internet is worse because it allows us to hide very effectively.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...


you probably just got older and more confident. It seems to be the normal course of things to just get better adjusted, happier and more stable as we get along in life, and learn from experience that things are generally going to be OK.

Life is terribly hard for young people. I feel sorrier for them every day.

Meredith said...

I used to be so afflicted with phone neurosis that, at 16, I broke down in tears when my mom ordered me to call Visa and inform them that I would be traveling to Europe. The trip didn't scare me; the faceless credit card representative did. Even now when I answer my cell phone, I'm like (ohgodohgodohgod)"Hello?" And my parents didn't even fight, so what excuse do I have?

Email is even worse. I've always seen new messages as so many spiders I have to kill.