Monday, September 26, 2016

Another of my neurotic problems

"Another neurosis. How does this guy cope?" you ask. Well, my wife and I have been binge watching Sherlock (with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman) and Sherlock Holmes describes himself as a high-functioning sociopath. So, I guess I could describe myself as a somewhat-functioning neurotic. I get by with a lot of help from God, my family and friends.

Anyway, the neurosis I'll talk about here is my fear of using the telephone. It's not the phone itself that bothers me. It's the act of talking on the phone.

The worst thing is having to call someone. I know I'm bothering them - even if I'm calling them with good news. I am absolutely certain they are about to leave for a long anticipated vacation or they are in the middle of a conversation with someone else or they just don't want to talk to talk with me. No matter how they answer the phone, I am convinced I've interrupted them. Yes, you may say that they always have the option of just not answering the phone but my neurosis has an answer for that. They've probably been waiting for an important call and feel they must answer the phone. Lots of people have Caller ID but how many people really look at it? And how much can you tell by the short, cryptic characters that you can barely see in that little display? No, I'm bothering them.

The other problem is being called by someone. That covers all the bases doesn't it? For all the reasons I don't want to call anyone, I don't want to be called by anyone, either. I have yet to get a call saying, "You've just won a million dollars!" If I did, I wouldn't believe them anyway.

The final problem I have with the telephone covers both being called and calling. The problem is having to come up with things to say without time to think about it first. They always ask me a question that I might be able answer if I had time to consider all the possibilities. The worst kind of call is the argument. I never know what to say. Not that I want to argue with people but I can't think of the right thing to say to diffuse the situation. I can't even come up with a good apology without some time to think. And if you're talking with someone face to face, you may not have time to consider all of your answers but at least you have some body language to go by. You can see their face and know if they are mad or happy. And I'm a terrible conversationalist anyway. I think I'm working myself into another neurosis about talking with people.

I much prefer email. If I receive an email, I can handle it when I have time. I can think about my answers. When I send an email, the other person doesn't have to respond right away. Or they can just not respond at all.

I vividly remember the first time I had trouble with the phone (I've written about this before here). I was just a kid and I was going to call a friend. I had called relatives before but for the first time, after looking my friend's number up in the phone book, a saw a phone number with a zero in it. Well, one of the first things I learned about the phone was that if you needed the Operator, you dialed zero. I dialed the first part of the number and got to the zero. I paused. What do you do? If I dial the zero, the Operator would come on and I'd have to talk with her! I dialed the zero and, probably because I'd paused so long, something clicked on the line and I panicked and hung up. I tried to dial again but gave up when I got to the zero. I don't remember how this ended up but it's been downhill ever since.

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