This Talker Has Been Disconnected

September 4, 2007 at 5:32 am (Uncategorized)

I have a little confession to make. I am really starting to hate talking on the phone. I have developed quite the marked aversion to it. You really have to get me on a good day now, and they’re becoming increasingly rare. I don’t know when it started, exactly, but I have a few theories. Let’s take a look at them and see if we can get to the bottom of this gross aberration in my communication profile.

My first theory has to do with past jobs. I used to be a sales executive, and an awful lot of business was conducted over the phone (and in a variety of restaurants across Sydney and London, I’m pleased to say – certainly they were the halcyon days of sales…). It was like a permanent appendage, and I resented it wholeheartedly by the end of each day. The sound of a phone ringing was enough to chill my spine. I discovered even then, many years ago now, that I had a limited tolerance for the telephonic, and those two jobs just leeched my daily allowance right out of me.

My second theory is that these days, I work in silence, so phone calls have an almost violent edge to them when I am in the middle of a day’s writing. Sometimes I leap right out of my chair when that infernal noise pierces the air. I’ve been working like this – alone, in silence – for a long time now, so I’ve acquired the habit of quiet. For people who know me well, I have no doubt this comes as something of a surprise, but you must keep in mind I’ve never been one to talk non-stop to myself, only to you.

Another theory is that I associate my phone with the conversations I conduct on it. Some of these conversations are vastly unpleasant. Some of them drive me right around the bend. There are some people to whom I simply do not wish to speak, and yet sometimes it’s unavoidable, and these conversations always take place over the phone. The thought of having them makes my lip curl even now, and right now I am giving my mobile what can only be described as the evil eye.

Yet another theory is that my phone’s many faults make speaking on it much harder and more traumatic than it should be. I can’t hear the other end, or it refuses to register my SIM card is in fact in place, or it drops out, or the battery dies, or there’s some other problem that makes me want to hang up and forget it ever happened.

My last theory is that I don’t like talking on the phone anymore because I’m out of the habit. Everything, but everything else I do seems to involve key boards or key pads or some other digitally-controlled operation. I type, I send emails, I now use Facebook, I send text messages, I use ATMs and EFTPOS – whereas nothing in my life in voice-activated. It’s like I haven’t been programmed that way. Or, more accurately, I have been deprogrammed.

Oh, and this is a sort of addendum theory: mobile phones make people rude. Manners, just common courtesy, seem to have gone right out the window with the advent of the mobile. And I hate that, and don’t wish to be a party to it.

Anyway, my telephobia (yes, I made that up) is concerning because lots of friends do like to talk on the phone. And lots of them don’t email. On top of that, I’m just about the only letter writer left in existence, so I know no one is ever going to pick up pad and pen and write it down for me. If I don’t embrace some quasi-competent level of phone chat, I’m afraid some of these friendships will be lost, or at least in grave peril.

I know some people are already onto me. I know they know that I don’t pick up my phone. I’m not screening, mind you, I just ignore the ringing right across the board. And good luck if you flash up as a private number – I’m never taking that call. You might be a real estate agent. Or a tele-marketer. Or Satan. Whoever you are, I’m not answering, and it blows my mind to recall the days of the landline, when I never knew who was on the other end. Talk about risky.

And yes, in case you’re wondering, it is infinitely possible that I am spending too much time alone, in blessed, blessed silence.

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