film noir 02 by nuntius on Flickr
“I don’t answer the phone. I get the feeling whenever I do that there will be someone on the other end.”
~ Fred Couples
I don’t answer the phone for the same reason. Years and years ago I never really minded talking on the phone, but over time, just a few people drastically changed my attitude toward telephone conversations. You probably have at least one of those people in your life — or maybe you are one of those people. The ones who use the phone not as a tool for necessary communication, but as some sort of lifeline to a world outside of yours, or worse, as an actual activity, as if talking on the phone for a couple hours straight is something to do, when it’s really something you’re using (and someone you’re using, namely me if I’m the one stuck on the other end) as an avoidance tactic for other things in your life, as a time-waster to make your day go by, all disguised as some sort of social interaction.
Seriously, don’t call me unless you:
Need to impart some information that you’re actually going to tell me within the first minute or so of the call;
Firm up plans for later or the near future;
Confirm a delivery;
Offer me a gig;
Ask me a specific question and when you get the answer, get the fuck off the phone;
Ask me to do you a favor (again, within the first minute of the call);
Need to connect because we haven’t talked in — literally (not virtually!) — months, and we really do need to catch up for 15 or 20 minutes… you know, a reasonable (as defined by any sane person ) amount of time;
Or, really, any other reasonable reason (“reasonable reason?” Okay, chalk it up to alliteration and laziness) that won’t keep me on the phone with you for longer than 15-20 minutes. Any longer than that, I start getting real twitchy. I mean, what do you want from me, what do you need from me that e-mail or getting together won’t provide?
And do not repeat yourself. I realize that a couple of you, my very elderly people, cannot help this. This isn’t directed at you (and you won’t be reading this anyway because the Interweb is incomprehensible to you). I’m talking to you other people who say the same thing every time you call (because… why? I can’t fathom it), and also to those of you who, when I begin to fall silent and I refuse to feed your need for reverb, get uncomfortable. Deal with it. Hang up the phone, say Nice talking to you, see you soon/later/whatever, and get OFF THE PHONE.
And don’t — really, do not — leave messages on my answering machine like these:
“Oh, hey, hi, it’s _____. Just calling to chat. Call me.” (Chat? Do people still “chat?” Chat used to mean something like… what — idle conversation? Like I need that. And now, isn’t chat one of those live Interweb things? Scary to me: IM. It’s like Phone Fingers. Let’s not even get into Skype. Unless, of course, it’s for business.)
“Hello, it’s _____. I need to ask you something. Give me a call back, or I’ll call you later.” (What, is that some kind of threat? “Call me or else I’ll call you.” Damn, I’m scared! But wait, my twin minions Caller ID and Answering Machine will take care of it for me!)
“Hey, it’s _____. I wanted to ask you a question. It’s kind of important, call me back/not important, call me back.” (These callers waffle between these two choices alarmingly regularly. If it’s kind of important, ask it on the machine so I’ll call you back the very second I get the message! If it’s not important… why are you even calling me??)
“Hi, it’s _____. I have something I wanted to ask you… I’ll tell you about it when you call me back.” (Oh, right, like I’m going to call back and play Spy VS Spy.)
My best friend (and at this age, I know what “best friend” really means by now), Linda — I’ve never heard her voice, and I’ve known her for… 13 years now? Something like that. She lives in Scotland. I live in the States. She — hey, wait — you know what’s not fair? She’s heard my voice — several times! I have sent her goofy videos on YouTube, even left a few (well, maybe two) voice messages for her. So not only has she heard my voice several times, she has seen me talking right to her on video.
And what have I had from her? Oh, well, a lot of e-mails. A LOT. Thirteen years’ worth. And cards, and hand-written letters (once even a recipe I still haven’t tried to make for fear it would never taste as good as the shortbread she sent). All kinds of other things. Oh, photographs, of course (which I promptly fucked with in PS, was fun). And most importantly, a deep and abiding friendship that has lifted me through life.
The point is, I don’t care. Not that I don’t care if I ever hear her voice (I’ve asked her a few times over the years if I would be able to understand her, she being Scottish and speaking Gaelic and all that, and she told me she’d been to English boarding schools ((shades of Pink Floyd)) and can speak the King’s English so yes, I could get it), but that our friendship has not and, far as I can see, won’t suffer if I don’t hear her voice. Or see her doing incredibly doofy things in the kind of videos I’ve sent to her. The point is, I know she’s there. I’ve always known she’s there. I can feel it, even when she’s not there. That’s what a connection is all about. It’s real, indubitable, always present.
Someday, I hope to meet her in person, whether I’ve heard her voice or not.
Thing is, she hates the phone as much as I do, if not more. So not only don’t I mind that I’ve not heard her voice, I really don’t care. When I do, that will be good. It’s not something I yearn for, but it’s definitely something I look forward to.
The rest of you — you Telephone People, you Telephone Things — think about that. Get the fuck off your cell phones, write a letter, make a 30-second phone call to say Can I stop by, and see each other in person — or, send a video. Whatever you, just make sure it’s something that’s not going to imprison the other person on your earlobe for longer than 15 minutes. Any longer than that, you have a problem.
I hear you telephone thing listening in
I hear you telephone thing listening in
How dare you assume I want to parlez-vous with you
Sorry to be so short with you
But I’m tapped, but I’m tapped
~ The Fall