Phone phobic

Old fashioned pay phoneAs a kid I ran full speed into the kitchen wall trying to be the first to answer its shrill ring. Why I raced I don’t know as my mother moved at regular speed and my father moved away from that beastus interruptus at least as quickly as I moved towards it.

It was never for me in those early days, but I would sit in the tapestry rocker and twist its pigtail cord around my finger and imagine my connection to the person at the other end, running from our house to the pole to some circuit board and out to their house near, or far and it was amazing and inclusive and all things incredible about human beings.

A bit later I got “my own line” and decorated my phone with nail polish and left the receiver on the hook and practiced dialing my friends numbers as quickly as I could to gain muscle memory. Today I still know the sibley twins and a few other numbers by heart, even as I struggle to remember my mothers current cell phone.

In college the blinking light represented possible study sessions, paties, and awkward boys. I would count the blinks from the cracked dorm room door. 1-2-3-4-5 chances that he called. Subtract one for Adam who called my roommate every day, then probably half left are for me. 2, still better than 1 and a world away from zero. Lets press play, anything is possible.

Then the bag phone. Seriously, I had a bag phone and if it hasn’t rung up at $10/ minute I would have called everyone I knew. Look! I’m outside your window. Look down! Hey, I’m running late (except I NEVER made that call). I drove around half hoping for an emergency, my bag phone a temporary super power.

Then the car phone. Mounted to best bump my knee with its jelly buttons. The tones were too loud, the voices too crackly, the Vermont roads too signaless. This,I think was the beginning of the end of my love affair with phones.

Now we have almost entirely broken up.

The call that inspired this post:

A friend who I just drove away from is calling. Although I know I need to write something before my noon lunch I answer. Since I just saw her I thought maybe it would be quick. I can tell she is calling for closure, we separating in a rushed way and she is being a good friend, sort of tying up loose ends. It’s not that I feel annoyed or burdened by her…just I wish I had screened the call and talked when I had time. So I tell her, in,y awkward way, I shouldn’t really have answered. There, that was perfect. I’m sure that will explain and smooth out everything. NOT. (As my phone fillic teenage self would say)

She is a good friend though and she laughs a bit and offers her grace to save my lilting, dismissive comment. “I was just calling to say thank you,we’ll talk soon.”

Its not the devices…I love the iPhone, and will be standing in line (I guess I love phones more than lines) Friday morning to get one. It’s the immediacy. I love a text or an email, there is an expectation of a quick but not instanteous reply. I can handle that. The phone requires social grace, and nuance. And has built in small talk, which is inefficient.unless the call is ALL talk. That is just crazy.

I used to talk to boyfriends until one or both of use fell asleep on the phone. I assume there was content to these endless conversations, but all I remember is :you hang up first, no you hang up first, no you hang up first…until I would wake up clutching the receiver with whatever sharpie color I had used to customize it rubbed off on my sweaty hand.

So there was a time when the talking was good.

Now I talk to three people. My mother, my uncle, and one of those ex boyfriends, although probably less than he would like if my voice mailbox is any indication. They are all throwbacks to a time when I wasn’t phone phobic. I try always to talk while driving now that Bluetooth makes this possible, so I wait until I am past the shelburbia signal dead spot and call them. I love the talks until I arrive at my destination,and then my technology gets the better of me. I want to keep talking (or not) but the phone is coming through the car radio. I can’t leave the car idling. It has been 4 months with the new car and I haven’t yet run the experiment “what happens if I turnoff the car while talking on the phone?” Whichever call aim on seems like a bad one to test with, and starting a call just for that purpose goes against everything I stand for.

Interrupted by a call hold on.

Why when we have caller Id do people identify themselves? I think it’s because the rest of you will continue muddling through a conversation looking for cues as to Whois on the line instead of asking. Just ask who it is. Seriously, then we can skip the step of identifying ourselves at the beginning. Or is it because not everyone sees the phone as an act of aggression against them?

At some point this magical tool of connection and possibility changes, and now I hate every last one of you that calls me. If you are calling because you are driving and don’t want to text appreciate that. You can call then.

So the call that interrupted this post was from a friend landscaper who is moving rocks from my old house to Shelburbia. I am quite brusque. He tells me who it is (I knew) he tells me he sent me a picture by text. (I hadn’t gotten it but when I do I would have known) then he tells me that I probably haven’t gotten the text because the signal in my neighborhood is spotty. (I knew that too.) so I ask about the picture, thinking it is to approve positioning or something and he says it is a picture of a rock in the back of a truck. Ok. What was the point of the call? Unclear. I have hung up on him to continue this rant.

I include this story because he is thick skinned, funny, and probably doing a very good job. You have every right to be annoyed that you appeared in my blog as an example of my intolerance. It just so aptly illustrated my point.

I assume and hope I didn’t alienate you on the call, or through this exemplar, but if I did then I did.

Maybe I am a bbg?

It’s not like I don’t like to talk, or even that I don’t like to listen. Just somehow the phone has grow into a texting, surfing, reading, candy crushing tool rather than a conversation piece.

Ok, let me have it. Does this all just seem like phoniness?

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Anna Palmer

Anna Rosenblum Palmer is a freelance writer based in Denver, CO. She writes about sex, parenting, cat pee, bi-polar disorder and the NFL; all things inextricably intertwined with her mental health. In her free time she teaches her boys creative swear words, seeks the last missing puzzle piece and thinks deeply about how she is not exercising. Her writing can be found on Babble,, Great Moments in Parenting, Ravishly, Good Men Project, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Playpen, Crazy Good Parent, and YourTango. She also does a fair amount of navel gazing on her own blog at

3 thoughts on “Phone phobic”

  1. Remember that time when I said I admit my mistakes? I was wrong about your voicemails. I finally played 48 of them. Partly because I waited so long there were NONE I needed to take action on. I really enjoyed listening to them. So as sort of a spoken word poetry thing your voice mails are great.

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