I don’t know what happened.
There used to be a time when I could talk to my friends all day, every day at school, then come home, pick up the phone and talk the whole evening away to those same friends. No subject was taboo or too little to be discussed. We’d conference call so nobody felt left out. And when we ran out of things to say, we’d park ourselves in front of the TV and channel surf for something interesting to talk about.
You know this blog? Well, multiply it by a hundred or so with a lot more personal information thrown in. That’s what it was like. All day. Every day. On the phone.
The phone was an essential ingredient of the entire exercise. It allowed us to multitask while we gabbed and it did so without hurting anybody’s feelings. I mean, if you and I were having a conversation and, say, I suddenly brought out a bottle of nail polish, you’d either think I was incredibly rude or wonder if it was part of some convoluted seduction routine engineered just so to show off my lovely feet. Whereas it could well be that my nails just needed some polish.
Actually, come to think of it, I think I did once paint my feet at a party but there were extenuating circumstances and yes, my nails really did need a coat of paint. Immediately. Anyway, nobody noticed.
But as I was saying, now imagine that same scenario but with a phone. Do you know I’m painting my nails? No. So does it bother you? I don’t think so. Similarly, you can fix yourself a sandwich, do your homework, watch TV, listen to music, flip through a magazine, maybe even sit through a parental lecture with a phone attached to your ear and nobody has to know.
Please note, the last depends upon the type of parent involved. In my household it remains a fond dream but theoretically, it could work. Try at your own risk.
Anyway, so then something happened. I don’t know what caused it but all of a sudden I couldn’t stand being on the phone for longer than a couple of minutes at a time.
I guess this is not such a big problem for people who live isolated lives but the thing here is, I don’t. I have the sort of parents who call me everyday no matter where I am or what I’m doing to just check in and shoot the breeze (you think I’m exaggerating but that’s because you don’t know them so I forgive you); I have friends who can talk for hours about absolutely nothing at all and when they’re unable to use their voice, they’ll send long, detailed text messages about nothing in particular (dude, it’s an art! I asked my fingers to try some of that action and they told me to fuck off); I even attract chatty telemarketers.
[Okay, so the last is a problem that I have created for myself but listen, I know people who used to do that stuff part time and I just can’t bring myself to be rude to them when I know the lives they lead for all the glory of a minimum wage. I’ll hang up on them but never rudely. And I won’t hide from you that that approach has been known to backfire.]
So… phones. Can’t stand them. Two minutes into the conversation, I really want to hang up. Really, really want to hang up. This never happens face to face or through any other medium. I have not lost the ability to sit down and talk for hours or IM. But the phone? Is no longer my friend.
And when you add the fact that I’m a born procrastinator (could be a fancy way of saying I’m incredibly lazy), you can just imagine the communication breakdown. Especially since we live in an age when everybody seems to be attached at the hip to their phone. Seriously, this phone dependency has long passed mere addiction stage.
But consider this – I had this horrible moment a few years ago when I kept postponing a phone call that I meant to make and that person died while I was trying to psyche myself into placing that call. I felt like scum. She wasn’t sitting by the phone, waiting for my call or anything, but she was a wonderful lady who’d been pretty sweet to me as a child and I liked her very much. She was in my city and the least I could have done was call her up a time or two. It would have been the polite, kind… nice thing to do.
But I didn’t. And she died. It was not a cause-and-effect situation. Still, I didn’t make the effort when it might have counted. So did I learn my lesson?
What do you think? I learnt it for about a second and then I went back to my wicked ways.
However, this week I received two phone calls and I enjoyed them very much. They both lasted an hour each and were about this, that and the other. Nothing very important. Just old friends, calling to see if I was still alive or if I’d crawled under a rock somewhere and died of peaceful neglect. It inspired me to call another friend and see how he was doing. And then another friend.
So am I over my phone phobia? Not really. But it was nice to get in touch with people and just hang. And do my nails.
Happy Thanksgiving. Go call a friend.