I hate phones. There. I’ve said it. I’m not sure when it started. But probably when I was very young.
You see, in our family, everyone had to be part of a phone conversation. I think it came from my father’s generation when it was unique to get a call from someone and therefore everyone spoke to whomever was on the other line.
“Hey, it’s Aunt Pauline, come here and talk to your Aunt Pauline!” Or, even worse, “…Oh, Chris is here. (then to me…) This is your Uncle Bob. Talk with him (as the phone was handed to me.)”
It didn’t matter if I was in the middle of something. It didn’t matter if I needed to run to the bathroom. It just didn’t matter. You dropped everything and you picked up the phone, turned on your most pleasant and polite voice, and started talking.
Once I was on my own, in college, I didn’t talk on the phone much. I would make my obligatory Sunday call to my parents. And, occasionally, I would call one of my high school buddies. But I was a 16 hour drive away from my home and I would, periodically, get a bit homesick and I would want to hear a friendly voice.
When I was in the Navy I really had no reason to call anyone except my parents (which fell below the weekly level by then). And so I just didn’t talk much on the phone. And by the time I was dating my (now) wife, I was either in the same town or we were out to sea. We couldn’t talk when we were at sea (unlike these days with cellular coverage).
As a teacher I always failed at calling students. I would procrastinate until it was a moot point or we had a face to face conference. The best thing about leaving the classroom to become an instructional coach – no more expected parent phone calls.
I also had the advantage of living in Japan and the Netherlands for a few years each. I could use the excuse that there wasn’t a convenient time because of the difference in time zones. I rarely had to call anyone. It was nice.
Inconvenience became my go to excuse. “Oh, I can’t call now it’s dinner time there.” “I’d call now but they are probably getting ready for bed.” “I can’t call this early they’re probably getting ready to head out and they don’t need to be interrupted by a phone call.” So, I didn’t call – for months.
18 months ago I lost my brother to cancer. I vowed to call my sister-in-law on a regular basis. When I called her I told her I’d call her more regularly. I vowed I’d call my two sister’s more. When I did call them I told them I’d call them more regularly. But I haven’t changed my ways.
I wake up and say, “I should call _____________(fill in the blank with any of a dozen relatives). I’ll make sure I give them a call today.” After breakfast I say, “They’re probably out doing something or they are in the middle of something I don’t want to interrupt what they are doing.” By early evening I’ve conveniently forgotten that I wanted to call and I say, “I can’t call now it’s too late (on the East Coast)” -or- “They’re getting ready to eat (on the West Coast).”
And now it’s at the embarrassing stage. I haven’t called for months. The thought of interrupting the person at the other end just stops me in my tracks. I look at the phone. I might even pick it up but I’ll come up with an excuse not to call “this time. I’ll call later”
So, to all of my friends and relatives who haven’t heard from me in a while. I’m alive. I think about you (really! I do!) regularly. I’ve tried sending emails instead but that hasn’t resulted in much two way communication with anyone. No one uses email any more. But, in my mind, the beauty of email is that it can be opened at a convenient time. I do not want anyone picking up the phone feeling obligated to talk to me. I want to be talk to people when the time is perfect. And that never seems to happen.
I need to call. I should call. I really ought to call. But I probably won’t call – today. But maybe tomorrow. Tomorrow I’ll find the perfect time to call. Yeah, I’ll call then.