Like most Americans, I have a somewhat dependent relationship with my smartphone. I use it for everything — keeping in touch with friends, taking notes, making shopping lists, doing my banking — everything.
What I don’t use it for if I can help it? An actual telephone.
Kids make talking on the phone difficult, of course, but that’s not why I can’t stand it. I don’t just find it a nuisance — I actively, passionately hate it. There are three ways to torture me: drop me into a pit of snakes, make me do hot yoga, or make me make a phone call.
When the Crawley family installed a telephone in their mansion in Downton Abbey, the wise and witty Lady Grantham quipped, “Is this an instrument of communication or torture?” It’s entirely possible that I jumped up and yelled at my screen, “Yes! Torture! Thank you!”
I know I’m not the only one who has to work up to making a call to the doctor’s office to make an appointment. I’m not the only one who lets calls go to voicemail approximately 99% of the time. There are loads of us out there avoiding phone calls like the plague.
Why? Because it’s all just so freaking awkward. While the awkwardness of calling someone you don’t know is painfully obvious (don’t tell me it’s not — it is, damn it), I don’t even like talking to people I do know on the phone.
Let’s say I have to call someone (because necessity is the only reason that I ever call someone). There are eight distinct phases that make up the loathsome experience:
1. The Pre-Call Procrastination
I put off phone calls until it would be recklessly irresponsible of me to do it any longer. During this phase, I also berate myself for my inability to make a simple phone call like a normal person.
2. The Ring of Prayer
Riiing. (Please, please, don’t pick up.) Riiing. (Please go to voicemail.) Riiing. (Yes, they’re not going to answer!) Riiing. (Deep breath, you’re going to have to leave a message.)
3. The “Oh Sweet Jesus” Pickup
“Hello?” Oh god, someone answered. My mind just went blank. Who am I calling and why? Buy some time. “Hi! This is Annie.” Yeah, they probably already know that, since everyone and their grandma has caller ID on their cell phone. Feeling like a big doof right out of the gate.
4. The Painful Small Talk
“How are you?” “I’m fine, how are you?” “I’m good. How’s the family?” How long is this small talk phase supposed to last exactly? How many questions are too many? How much info is too much to share? How do people get through this without wanting to shrivel up and die?
5. The Blind Transition
It feels like a decade has passed, though it’s probably been 30 seconds. Now it’s time to transition to why I’m calling, which I’m not even sure about myself at this point. In real life, there are visual cues in a conversation, but on the phone? Nothin’. Just an awkward pause that lasts a hundred hours, and then an abrupt switch to the reason I’m subjecting us both to this torture, “So…I’m calling because…”
6. The Simultaneous Talking Two-Step
Things might go along smoothly for a minute, but it never fails. At some point in the conversation, both people start talking at the same time. Then we both stop. Then we both say, “Sorry, what was that?” “Go ahead.” “No, you go first.” [insert awkward laugh] OMG, the awkwardness. It hurts. It hurts so bad.
7. The “So anywaaayyy…” Wrap-Up
How exactly are you supposed to end a phone call? What I really want to say is, “Are you done saying all your words? Because I’m done saying all my words, and I really, really want to get off the phone but don’t know how. Please put me out of my misery.”
But inevitably, I end up saying “So, anywaaayyy…” followed by something goofy like, “I’d better get going.” (Where? Where am I going?) Then that leads us into the end-of-call small talk, which is just as ambiguously long and painful as the beginning-of-call small talk. Kill me now.
8. The “Who Goes First?” Hang-Up
One of us actually has to come up with the cue to hang up. “Okay, well, it was nice talking to you.” “You, too.” “Okay, talk to you later.” “Okay, talk to you later.”(Wait, they already said that, didn’t they?) “Bye.” “Mmmbye.”
I always say “Mmmbye.” I don’t know why — probably because talking on the phone is the worst.
If you’re someone who doesn’t mind — or inexplicably actually enjoys — phone calls, you’re probably wondering what all this fuss is about. You don’t get it. That’s okay. I’m the person email and texting were invented for. I also express myself better in writing, so you can keep that whole, “Phone calls are more personal” nonsense to yourself.
No way, man. Text me, message me, email me, send me a carrier pigeon, but for the love of god, please don’t call me on the phone.
I probably won’t answer anyway.