Be honest, now.
Do you screen your phone calls?
I do … for a lot of reasons. Some easily expressed and some more subtle.
On the surface, there has always been something in my psychological make-up that makes me absolutely despise talking on the telephone. I’ve been this way for a long time, but it’s gotten worse as I’ve gotten older.
It’s not that I’m anti-social … really. Although there’s no doubt that I’m basically an introvert, I really do like people and I enjoy having a conversations.
Just not on the telephone …
It’s the annoying disruption … that abrupt disturbance of the peace … that comes with a phone call, that rubs me the wrong way.
A sudden shrill shout demanding that I stop what I’m doing at the moment and insisting that I focus on what somebody else might want.
It immediately raises my blood pressure and causes my pulse to race.
If you’re calling to sell me something or just to survey my opinion, you should know up front that when I pick up the phone, more times than not, I’m already in a bad frame of mind.
Okay … so maybe that’s one of the issues.
The proliferation of telephone solicitations the last few years can be daunting. Even with the national “Don’t Call” list, you still get bombarded by credit card companies and charities and such. Not to mention campaign calls during an election!
Of course I don’t want to talk to any of these people … ever … and I’d prefer not to have to justify my reasons to them while they scramble through their pre-scripted notes on how to effectively counter my objections. Just send me something in the mail so I can read it at my leisure and maybe it interests me, maybe it doesn’t, but I promise you I’ll make a much more objective decision if you do not call me on the phone!
I truly do not like talking on the phone … not to strangers or even to friends and family.
But, that’s not it entirely. There’s more to it than that. This is where it becomes more subtle.
Beneath the surface, I quite often find myself actually afraid to answer the phone … uneasy about what the caller might need to tell me.
From years of dealing with my Mom’s long debilitating illness and gradual decline I began to anticipate that almost every call was possibly bad news. The sudden ring became not so much a source of irritation, as one of trepidation.
So, I seldom answer the phone anymore …
At first, I screened calls mainly to avoid talking to annoying people that I didn’t know.
Later, I began to screen people I did know, but would prefer to talk to later …
Last year, I started screening calls in hope of delaying the inevitable. To give myself a chance to digest the bad news and prepare myself to face it.
Sadly though, I did pick up the phone before dawn that morning last March when Dad called to tell me that the doctors thought it was time to disconnect Mom’s life support systems.
It was a call I was expecting, but one I could never be fully prepared to take.
This was the culmination of over a decade of calls from Dad and other family regarding Mom’s health issues.
Calls that became more and more routine.
Calls that continuously escalated the level of my anxiety and reinforced my negative association with hearing the phone begin to ring.
Today a ringing phone sets off an almost Pavlovian response in me.
At first I’m startled.
Then I become irritated for a moment.
And then that little nagging fear sets in.