Just last week, a friend was telling me about the stressful turn her morning took after she left her cellphone at her house. Despite being halfway to work on the downtown train, she got off, jumped on an uptown train and headed right back to her place to save her beloved Samsung Galaxy S6. That decision would bring about a pretty terrible, albeit, “turr-ble” morning commute. Travels that would include being stopped by a plainclothes officer on the train for failing to pay for her ride after her card wouldn’t let her go through because she had used it a few stops back. All this discord set in motion by the desire to retrieve a cell phone she carries with her and clings to 24/7. Like most people.
If it were me, I probably would have left the damn thing at home and basked in the joy of not being accessible for once. But, of course, someone would have called. Wondered. Worried. Leaving me with the burden of trying to find a way to let them know I’m okay. So despite me “accidentally” leaving my phone at home, which I’ve done before, I would still be connected in some way. *Deep sigh*
You see, I’m not crazy about using the phone. Group texts make me want to fling myself out of a window. A torrent of messages from a disgruntled friend or family member take my attention away from my work. And more than anything, trying to hold a one-sided conversation with a person who called me provides the same feeling one has to deal with when getting their eyebrows threaded. I just can’t.
Blame it on the fact that ever since I was a kid, I’ve been forced to try and carry conversations with family members I’ve only seen a few times or solely in pictures. To them, I talk too fast. To me, they don’t have enough to talk about. Despite my best efforts at a conversation, it’s never enough for them. I just can’t.
I’m far from an introvert. In fact, when I go to events, I try to throw myself out there to meet new people. I like talking, just not on the phone. Not to hella distant relatives who spend the first minute of our two-minute conversation chiding me for not calling enough. Not to celebrities I interview who are either too long-winded or too short. And not to people who make a conversation that should only last 10 minutes go on for more than an hour. Again, I just can’t.
After receiving a request to do a better job of reaching out to my future in-laws recently, I realized how truly hard talking on the phone is for me. Not because I don’t like my in-laws (they’re kind, good people), but because, as I’ve already driven home by now, I loathe the entire phone experience. To comfortably engage in a phone conversation, I’ve found that I have to feel very connected to people so that the conversation flows smoothly. Like the talks I have with my parents. My sisters. My best friends. My fiancé. My quirky and fellow fitness-obsessed boss. Once the conversation has flowed and is ready to wind down, one of us knows a quick and painless way to conclude it:
“All right, I’m gonna let you go.”
“I’m gonna go ahead and hit the sack, girl. What are you doing tomorrow?”
“I’m about to eat this dinner, but I’ll talk to you later.”
“Let me get off this phone. It’s getting late. I’ll be in touch.”
But when conversations I engage in over the phone stumble, including moments of silence that feel like they last forever, language barriers, and a bunch of “Sorry, I didn’t hear that” comments, I quickly realize how much I can’t wait to get off the phone. I don’t like to force conversation, and I hate the phony high-pitch voice you have to use to make someone think you truly enjoy the struggle-worthy interaction. When they call back, the second and last time for the year (because, again, the connection isn’t genuine), you go through the same anxiety all over again. I just can’t.
But that’s probably because I’m a fan of talking to people face to face. Really vibing with someone and going through the awkward motions together. If we can’t equally carry the conversation, we know how to dead it and simply step away, toward someone or something else that we’re comfortable with, all without offending each other. By talking in that way, I feel like I can genuinely get to know someone. I have the time to do so. And by talking in person, we can avoid getting our signals crossed. I feel most free to be myself, to crack jokes and see the response I get during these chats. To watch brows furrow, eyes lighten up, cheekbones pop, smirks emerge and heads tip back and forward in laughter. I love it.
But talking on the phone? I loathe it.
I plan to continue to make my obligatory check-in calls to keep the peace with my aunts, uncles and the lot of them. I will continue to interview celebrities, ones with sunny dispositions and others with ice-cold personalities. I will continue to place phone calls to quickly get shit done (because texting and emailing is often draining and takes too much time). However, I know that I’ll do it begrudgingly. It’s just not me. Want to get to know me? Let’s meet up instead! Talk over smoothies, go for a walk, discuss some funny stories or pop culture issues over pancakes in Brooklyn. But if you want to call you, sorry. I just can’t.