I really hate calling people on the phone. I always have. I find it so awkward. Without visual guidance I find it hard to figure out when the other person is about to speak so as soon as I figure out a way to fill that awkward silence I end up creating another awkward moment by speaking over the person as they try to talk. “Oh, sorry, go ahead.” “No, you go ahead.” *Both people start talking at the same time again.*
Then there are awkward background noises such as toilet flushes or worse from people who decide it’s okay to talk on the phone while taking a dump. I’ve hung up on people who think it’s okay to talk to someone else in the room with them while talking on the phone with me. It drives me insane.
When the phone rings three times and the person doesn’t pick up there’s that brief moment of relief when I realize I won’t have to talk on the phone until I realize that means I have to deal with the dreaded answering machine. It’s awkward because you’re talking to the person but you’re not actually talking to them because they’re not there. Half the time what’s supposed to be “Hi, John, it’s Kira” turns in to “Hi, Kira, it’s John.” At least I’m not one of those people who says “Hi, it’s me.” What information are you giving with that statement that the person didn’t already have?”
Then sometimes that person calls you back and gets your answering machine, then you call them them back and get their answering machine again..and you become engaged in an awkward game of phone tag.” “Hi, John, it’s Kira. Returning your call…again. But you’re not there..again. Call me back when you get a chance. Maybe I’ll pick up this time or maybe we’ll continue this awkward game of phone tag until one of us gives up or dies.”
For many years I had to live with a man who thought it was funny to try to trick and humiliate people on our home answering machine. The answering machine would say “Hello?” prompting the person to think someone was home and begin talking. Then the answering machine would say “Hi, how are you doing?” Then just as the person started saying “I’m doing well” (or god forbid started saying that their favorite relative just died) the answering machine would say “We’re not home right now but leave a message and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.” It wasn’t funny 20 years ago and it’s certainly not funny now. It’s one of the many reasons I’m glad I no longer live with my stepfather.
When I was a kid my mother would try to get me to call my classmates on the phone and invite them over for a play date. I would cringe in terror because I was extremely shy, socially awkward and not interested in connecting with people. Now it’s not that I don’t want to connect with people, it’s just that I’d prefer to connect over text or e-mail. No awkward silences, no pressure to respond immediately, no annoying background noises and no answering machines.
Still, I recognize that sometimes phone calls are necessary and occasionally they’re even pleasant. A few months ago I thought my calling in life was to tutor English as a second language so I agreed to tutor a guy from Egypt over the phone. When he called me several times a day and asked if I had a boyfriend I began to suspect he was looking for English lessons plus benefits.
When he suggested video calling I declined. I have some friends and family who are in to video calling but I’ve never tried it and have no interest in doing so. The one benefit of phone calling is that it does not require you to wear pants or look decent and video calling negates that benefit. I’m horrified by how easy it is to accidentally video call people on certain apps and devices. I’ve gotten a few accidental video calls and I’m afraid one of these days someone is going to catch me not wearing pants. When this Egyptian guy purposely video called me despite my request that he not do so, I blocked him.
Funnily enough, my cat has started trying to answer phone calls. When the iPad rings he swipes at it with his paw. If he could start handling all my phone calls from now on that would be great.