Close up Hands Tea x

Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

Phonephobia

My cellphone provider keeps writing, emailing and calling me telling me that I’m eligible for an upgrade and I don’t want one.  Honestly, if I had my way, I could spend the rest of my life without a phone, except maybe one that dials 911.  No incoming calls.  No outgoing call.

 

You see, the telephone is an instrument of torture to me.  No, really.  The kind of torture equivalent to the devices used during the Middle Ages, like the pendulum or the thumbscrew, which have been described as “not lethal, but psychological – used to extract confessions before permanently impairing the victim”.  This is mostly how I feel when I hang up (excuse me, I mean push END/OFF/CLEAR)

 

When I watch other people effortlessly babbling away on their cellphones or Bluetooth devices (which make them look like stark raving hobos to me) it makes me wish I could be so carefree and cavalier about chatting on the phone.  But, I can’t.  There are some people despise spiders or heights while others freak out about unseen germs or non-existent dust bunnies – but for me, it’s the ring of a telephone that sends shivers down my spine.  Seriously, I’m talkin’ nails-on-chalkboard, goosebumped evil kind of chills.

 

It also doesn’t help that I’m a little weird about having people “in my ear” (maybe that Night Gallery episode with the earwigs, I don’t know).  In the real world, there’s an invisible circle that defines your personal space, but the phone puts everyone who calls you thisclosetoyou.  It makes me squirm and my cheeks turn red.

 

It wasn’t always this way.  As a teenager, I was one of those All-American girls lying on the floor, feet propped up against the wall with the phone receiver stuck to my ear for hours.  To find me, all you had to do was follow the twisty black vinyl handset cord from the phone base to the receiver (yes, Virginia.  Phones used to be all wires and cords and consisted of two pieces, back in the day).  The minute I would come through the door from the school bus I would spin the rotary dial and the loud “tickety-tickety-tickety” would announce to everyone within earshot that I was commandeering the phone, leaving nothing but a busy signal in my wake.

 

My mother would ask, “What in the world could you possibly have to say to anyone?  You were in school all day together!”  As if.  My best friend and I might have been on the same campus all day, but we didn’t have the same classes.  We were torn asunder by her mad algebraic skills and my complete inability to see the sense of the darn thing.  The algebra class was light years away from my more practical <ahem!> Business Math class.  Communication back then was positively caveman-like, the way my girlfriends and I had to drop messages the size of Post-Its (which, um, hadn’t been invented yet) into each other’s lockers between classes.  By 4 o’clock I was bursting with updates on the missives of the day (important topics like “Guess who I saw at the lockers today?!) and needed to discuss strategies for the following day.

 

As a teenager, talking to boyfriends on the phone was a bizarre wasteland of words.  I can’t imagine that boys today are too different, but they didn’t talk much when I was a teenager (come to think of it, they don’t talk all that much as AARP members either), still we’d spend hours on the phone with dialogue as scintillating as, “What are you doing?” and “I dunno.  What are you doing?” or “My dog is eating my mom’s shoe!” (It was never homework, as we all claimed) and “Did you see what Potsie/Kotter/Belushi did last night?” – this went on for hours and hours.  Love hurts.

 

As time passed, the telephone became more complex and so did I.  Call waiting started to rudely interrupt every bit of phone dialogue I was to ever have. Mobile phones took away the center console of my car and for a king’s ransom I could call people on the road to let them know I was running late or lost, but more often than not, they would call at every intersection just to pester me to hurry up.  Cell phones came along and suddenly pockets and purses were buzzing or ringing incessantly as we were all made constantly accessible to those who wanted to find us, whether we wanted them to or not.  Inconsiderate diners and commuters began holding loud, personal conversations in public places — just the other day, a woman at In n Out Burger let everyone in a six foot radius know that her husband was cheating on her with their babysitter.  Sure, it was just a stranger and I will never see her again but I’m still disturbed by this knowledge and my kids didn’t really need to hear it either (“Mom, what’s a lying, cheating, good-for-nothing scumbag?”  That’s another blog, for another time).

 

Overall, it isn’t communication that bothers me, because I find that face-to-face conversations and the written word are right up there with cleanliness — being next to godliness and all (and I’m so much better with words than I am toilet brushes).  The exchange of ideas and transmission of thoughts is a wondrous thing.  In fact, I want thank all of you that email, Twitter/FB, text or drop postcards (giving me a chance to greet Postman Dan) –- I <3 U!  Even if the cryptic truncated text lingo causes me to read slower than I normally do.  [Sure, it’s easy for you to type, but then I have to spend time going all Indiana Jones over it to decipher it.]

 

Maybe the thing that really upsets me is that there is no way to be truly incommunicado these days.  With home phones, office phones, cell phones, email, faxes and social media… people act like they are entitled to have 24 hour / 7 days-a-week access to a person.  I mean, take me: I’m not that important, nor am I that interesting, so is it really so critical that I must be reached at any and all times?  Well, that’s just crazy talk. 

 

Crazy, in-your-ear telephone talk, at any rate.

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