Sunday, November 6, 2011

For Whom the Bell Tolls...Please, Not Me!

As of right now, my phone has rung a little over 40 times today. This is not counting the text messages I have received, which is over twice as many, just the actual phone calls. I didn't answer many of them, but it was not because of any adverse feelings I had toward the person who was calling, but for a much simpler reason: I HATE TALKING ON THE PHONE!!!

I really, really do and I don't use the word 'hate' loosely. I absolutely do not want to talk on the phone with anyone. About 10 years ago, I worked for a cell phone company and even then only had a phone because they gave me one and told me that was how they would get a hold of me when I was not at work. I gave only my immediate family my number. I didn't even have a house phone at the time. I didn't want one.

The only reason I later got a phone was because the cellular company offered $20/month discounts on one line for employees and my wife was dying to have one. There have been periods since then that I have been without any type of phone service. In fact, if I could have my way, I wouldn't have one now.

Because I am a substitute teacher, most of my job assignments are gained by receiving an early morning phone call. As much as the sound of that phone rakes on my nerves, it also means money, so I tolerate it. Plus, having a teenage daughter, I like to occasionally know her whereabouts. Once I am permanently employed and she is moved out of the house, I will probably cancel my phone service once again.

People have heard me gripe about my disdain for phones for years. When I started at the cellular company, I worked in the tech department and since it was a locally owned business, we could fix phones right there on the spot. I saw all types of people with different phone needs, but had the following conversation a thousand times:

ME:  Ma'am, it looks like your (insert random piece of circuitry) has gone bad.
CUSTOMER:  What does that mean?
ME:  Not to worry. I can fix it!
CUSTOMER:  How much is THAT going to cost me?
ME:  Not a cent. I can do it right here.
CUSTOMER:  Well, aren't you a wonderful, handsome young man.
ME:  My mother thinks so.
CUSTOMER:  Tell her she did a fine job!
ME:  Thank you, ma'am, I will.  Here is your service ticket. I should have your phone ready by noon tomorrow.
CUSTOMER:  (surprised) Tomorrow?
ME:  (proudly) Yes, ma'am! We try to be fast. One day turn around.
CUSTOMER:  (flustering) Well...what am I supposed to do until then?
ME:  Excuse me?
CUSTOMER: What am I supposed to do without a phone for a whole day?
ME:  The same as you normally do, but without a phone.
CUSTOMER: (angrily) Listen, you ugly little cretin, I'm supposed to go to my mother's tonight.
ME: (confidently) Well, if you are going to be at her house, then you won't need a phone. You can talk directly to her.
CUSTOMER:  Are you trying to be smart?
ME:  One of us has to be.
CUSTOMER:  (feigning shock)  How dare you! Do you know who I am?
ME: (proudly) Yes, ma'am, I do. You wrote your name on this invoice.
CUSTOMER: I'm going to call your manager!
ME: (apologetically) You won't be able to reach him until tomorrow afternoon.
CUSTOMER: And why is that?!?
ME:  You won't be getting your phone back until then.

No signal!!! Should we just die now?
That conversation happened over 10 years ago and people were not nearly as dependent on their phones as they are now. The very idea of stepping foot outside the house without a cell phone petrifies many with fear. What if I get a flat tire? Let's try to break this down. What did people do 20 years ago if they blew a tire? They did crazy things like change it, or in extreme cases, walked to the nearest house to make a phone call.

People went on dates without having a phone, they drove across the country, kids went to school and somehow the human race survived. I am not an advocate for getting rid of phones. I don't care for them, but if someone wants to have one that is their right. It is the ridiculous notion that a person will not be able to function without one that I object to.

Regardless of the opinion I have had of phones for many years, this blog was sparked by the fact that my phone has been ringing more and more lately. For several years, my phone (when I had one) rarely rang. My friends and family were very aware that I would rather chew on bloated dung beetles than get tied up in an involved phone conversation. Any time I handed out my number, I carefully explained that if the need ever arose to call me, they were to say what they had to say and then let me go. Do NOT call me 'just to talk.' Do NOT get off topic and NEVER, EVER call me and then say, "Hang on, I have another call." I guarantee I will not still be on the line when you come back and probably won't answer when you call the next time.

Only a very few people abide by the rules I request when I hand out my number, therefore, over the years when I moved or got a new phone, the number of people to get my number greatly decreased. I moved to central Illinois a year ago and got new phone service when we hit town. The new number was given to less than a dozen people. I hate talking on the phone so much, I didn't even give it to my girlfriend, who now lived more than two hours away due to my recent move. My reasoning was fairly simple. I knew if I gave her my number she would abuse it, by doing things like...calling, wanting to talk, etc.  Needless to say, we are no longer dating. Unfortunately, nothing in this paragraph is a joke.

I was never irritated that she called me before the number change. I was irritated as soon as I heard the phone ring that ANYONE was calling me. A ringing phone is an intrusion into my peaceful abode. It grates on my nerves, my hair stands on end and I feel stressed as soon as my phone starts to ring. It doesn't matter who is calling me. I hate it. I don't know why I feel this way, but I am acutely aware that I do feel it.

A few people, knowing how much I hate phone conversations, will text me. This is great as long as they can text and I can respond and then be done. If it goes back and forth more than three times, then it is now more nerve-grinding then just talking. A 10 minute texting storm could have been completed in 60 seconds by voice.

For those of you that have my number, please know that I do not screen my calls. If you call me and I do not answer, it is not because I don't want to talk to YOU. Don't take my not answering personally. Me not answering is usually because I am done with my phone for the day and have turned it off or it is in the other room and do not feel like going to find out who it is. If my daughter is safe at home, that is usually the case. If you leave me a message, and I know that I will be seeing you in the next few days, I will wait until then to conclude the conversation. If you don't leave me a message, then I will assume that it wasn't that important and I am grateful I didn't pick up the phone in the first place.

I am not anti-social. I like people and LOVE good conversation, but I highly prefer it face-to-face. If you have a problem with the blog I have written today, leave a comment, send me a Facebook message, email me, take me to dinner to discuss it or drop by my house, but do not, under any circumstances, CALL ME. Especially if we will run into each other anytime in the next year. We can catch up then.