I have a fear of calling people on the phone. Seriously. Before I even dial I start feeling that deep twisting feeling in my gut that’s normally reserved for standing on the edge of cliffs or venturing onto a ten lane freeway from a minuscule on-ramp, minus the adrenaline charged sense of excitement. My brain fumbles around for excuses or reasons to delay making the call. It suddenly seems like a good time to do the dishes.
Why I hate the phone so much I’ll never know. There has been no point in my life that I enjoyed yakking on the horn. I suppose maybe its just such a damn unnatural technology, sharing more in common with ghosts and conjuring than any kind of human connection. Your tinny disembodied voice doesn’t seem to have anything to do with you the person on the other end of the line, that cold, plastic, germ encrusted phone receiver on my ear is the exact opposite of an intimate whisper.
This is one of the reasons I think I prefer facebook and email and chat. There’s something more romantic and literate to it. Like passing notes in class, writing letters or carving stone tablets. Telephones just don’t seem right. At the very least there is a long tradition of expression in print, the great poems and works of literature that fill our libraries. Correspondances of our great explorers, statesmen, scientists and artists are still read today and provoke thought, tears and laughter still. There’s an art to the written word, but apart from a few performance poets, singers and radio DJs the sound of the word rarely works so well on its own.
I’ve also worked in no less than three call centres. I think that might have soured the whole thing. When you’re just a disembodied voice, with only a first name and some organizational affiliation you become something less than human, you become a punching bag for every tired middle class parent trying to sit down to a rare meal with their family. They tell you over and over in these jobs that 90% of communication is non-verbal, but you can certainly feel hate through copper wire.
And yet, I can’t deny that I’m missing out by not participating in the telephony world. There is an immediacy that isn’t available in email or chat. If I call you to come to the pub, chances are better that I can convince you to come. No email could be crafted that was persuasive enough to do that. Not in the same way. Textual communication bears no accountability on anyone. We pretend not to have noticed, we ignore, we brush aside, we legitimately forget. Letters and punctuation aren’t people, so they’re easy to dismiss.
I prefer face to face interactions most of all. To be in the physical presence of another, to share a warm hug or a firm handshake, to see the glimmer in an eye that no webcam no matter the megapixels could ever capture. But sometimes the phone, the blasted, terrible, frightening and hideous telephone is the way to go. So, I’m going to try and call you more often. I’m going to try and pick up more often. I’ll do it.
It sure seems easy, raising my hand to my ear, but sometimes its about the hardest thing in the world.