Friday, September 25, 2015

On Hold

I have an ancient Nokia. The kind that people take one look at and struggle to maintain a polite facial expression. But I can sense they're rolling their eyes on some level. The thing is- I refuse to update my phone because I dislike talking on it. I stare at it when it rings, wondering who could be so foolish.

It has a lot to do with not being a people person. There have been instances when I haven't answered the doorbell. I'd creep up to the door but stop a few feet away. Maneuvering myself onto the sofa, I'd balance precariously on its edge, bending over to look through the peep-hole, all so that the mystery person outside wouldn't see my shadow beneath the door. They don't go away if they see it. Take it from me. They keep ringing and ringing. Then you have to open the door and pretend you were sleeping or taking a bath. Eesh.

Comparatively, the phone is way better. It does not put my limbs at risk. But that's where the advantage ends. You see, each person has their own phone personality, which, like real personalities, either gels with your own or abrades it.

Some people are comfy with long stretches of silence. Others have panic attacks if you're both silent for 2 seconds. They either start blabbering (What did you eat for lunch?) or find something urgent has come up that they have to get to. Some people don't really want you to talk at all. Just listen. If you're lucky, you'll get in the initial syllable of every word before being steam-rolled. At first, you naively gather your own opinions on each topic as it whooshes by, but then it becomes too much to remember, so you drop it all.

There are times when this leads to an ego war. It's subtle, usually. It happens when a perfectly nice person is pushed beyond their limits. So when you interrupt the other person after 20 continuous sentences with one of your own and they still don't stop- and you've just had it and you keep going on too. Essentially, you're both talking at the same time. Even as it happens, you stubbornly continue, thinking the other person will have to stop, until, finally, you both do. Then you have to back-track and catch up.

I especially dislike the end of the call. All conversations lead naturally to an ending that both participants can sense. It's when you paste on a smile and start dragging words: "Aaaaall riiiight then" or "Sooooooo, whaaaaaaat else?" Within seconds, y'all are done. But rarely do people let it happen so naturally. There's the awkward 'hang'er, who suddenly decides he's had enough and says, "Ok then, bye" and hangs up, leaving your brain mid-thought. Even worse are those who have a whole litany for that end of the call moment. "Ok, see you, take care, have a nice day, good evening, ta ta, bye-bye." You can't get a word in edge-wise. If you try responding to all of those platitudes, they'll hang-up when you're halfway through. Then there's the 'bye-haters'. They'll say 'ok' and that's it. You'll be clutching the phone, and after a second's hesitation say 'hello?' only to hear the line beep out its death song. With people like that, I'm always afraid to say 'ok' in the middle of the conversation, even to agree with them. I go 'mmm-hmm'.

Picking up a call, surviving it and its subsequent end- the process is just the tip of the iceberg for me. Sometimes, the content adds insult to injury. The ones that really baffle me are those who account for every second when they relate an event. Every damn second. You know when you tune out and start dreaming, saying uh-huh every few seconds? You laugh when they laugh. You curse when they curse.... One good thing about phone calls? You get to hang up. Ok.

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