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Monday, May 3, 2010

A Pay-Per-View Event: The Phone vs. Aaron

"In the blue corner, with a book and a blog under his belt, is Aaron. In the red corner, with an esteemed history and and many buttons; defending champion and the most feared device in the world; weighing in at a mere two pounds, put your hands together for the telephone!"

Okay, so maybe my lifelong bout with the telephone isn't pay-per-view material, but I hold steadfast that the telephone is the most feared device in the world. It may be small, it may have a lot of numbers on it (it's only saving grace as I love numbers) but it's power is much larger than it's size. Much larger.

The phone wasn't always my enemy. I used it rather frequently to call my neighbor and I actually thought it a privilege to be the one who answered the phone. One time, when dialing my neighbor, I must have hit a wrong button or mis-dialed because I heard, "Congratulations! You are the 20th caller! What's your name?" Being a confused six-year old I asked if my friend was there only to find out that he wasn't, so I hung up.

That 20th caller mishap was the start of my fear of the phone. I wasn't to the point that I am now needing to predict the order of conversation, but I was even rigid back then that I asked what I was going to ask regardless of what or even who was on the other line.

I became fearful of the phone from then on because if that mishap happened once, it could happen again. Granted, now, I would love to be the 20th caller and to win something, but I don't even try to win because it involves using the phone.

So what is it about the phone that has let it beat me and own every proverbial title belt known to man? For one, it's that even though I may call a person's cell phone, and that cell phone may be answered, there is no guarantee that the person who owns the phone may answer. What if they are driving and they have someone else answer? How will I react to that? This used to not be a problem because I could simply hang up, but with the advent of caller i.d. I run the risk of being called back and asked, "Why did you hang up?"

Come to think of it, I had this happen once. In 1998 I called a vintage racing VHS sales store and when they answered I became panicked because the voice on the other end was not how I imagined it, so I hung up. Seconds later my phone rang and I answered, and the person, whose voice had been not what I expected, demanded to talk to my dad who the caller i.d. had shown called. I told the man that he wasn't home so the voice demanded to know why this number had called. Reason after reason came into mind, and there were many moments of awkwardness as I did not know what to do, so I said I had mis-dialed after at least a dozen seconds passed by. Presumably this pleased the angry voice and he hung up.

With each unpleasant experience I became more and more hesitant to use the phone. I may not be able to 100% know if someone in my presence is happy/mad/sad/etc. but I am at least able to have a slight clue. When I call someone on the phone, though, there is 0% to go by. They could be in the middle of a fight, or a traffic jam, or even asleep and if I interrupt them they may become very mad. If a person is pacing pack and forth with tears flying from their eyes I know that I shouldn't go ask the about the weather, or yesterday's race, but on the phone I don't have that luxury.

When I call somebody it may take several minutes to think of what I am going to say and how I am going to say it and how I will react to each possible answer. Idle chit-chat and I don't match well on the phone. Once I come up with my question I am going to ask it may take minutes, or even an hour, to get the nerve to make the call. Ordering a pizza used to be difficult as I would be almost robotic in my delivery of what I wanted. Much like the way I described my scripting of my order at Taco Bell (see blog entry "Crossing the Border, My Trip to Taco Bell") I would script out my pizza order. Thankfully the internet has come along and now I can do all my ordering without any human interaction.

Dialing isn't the only thing I hate as receiving calls sends a tremor down my spine unlike any other event. As I hear my phone ring I look at it with my breath held. "What's the bad news?" I think as I see who it is. Unknown numbers and private numbers scare me to no end because I always assume it is a police entity letting me know that someone I know has been killed. I believe that no good news is spread by the phone even though there is probably evidence to the contrary.

The absolute worst thing about the phone, or at least my cell phone, is the "beep beep... beep beep" of a voice mail. Take my fear of unknown numbers and multiply that by all the numbers on a phone pad (except 0, of course) and you will get close to the amount of fear I experience. Take this as a plea that should you ever call my cell phone, whoever you are, don't leave a voice mail! I can tell if you called with caller i.d. so that, in my mind, is the message. A voice mail though means either that the world is ending or something to that extent has happened.

I can't think of a more anxiety producing device than the phone. Conversations are difficult because there is no physical cues to go by (yes, I know I am almost inept on going by cues, but being 5% proficient is better than the 0% I have to go by on the phone). The anxiety and fear of incoming calls are temporally paralyzing as they occur, and of course the end of the world voice mails strike fear.

With each bad event I started to fear the phone a little bit more. As I said, I used to love the phone, but then I realized the power of it. With each event I became more inclined to not use it, and I would rather drive all the way to the store to find out if they have what I want instead of using the phone and asking.

As motivation for this blog entry I set my phone to the left of my computer. I keep glancing over at it and as I wrote about the voice mails I wanted to make a funny face to it and give it the evil eye, but fear of people walking past my office and me leering at my phone prevented me from doing so. My BlackBerry though has been blinking at me with it's routine green light letting me know I don't have any messages. What a relaxing light, but there will come a time. Maybe today, maybe next week where that light will be red; a voice mail! My internal alarms will go off and I will be stressed and fearful that the world as I knew it is over.

Come to think of it, this bout is not pay-per-view material as the phone would win by KO even before the bout would begin as just the fear of the incoming call would be enough to get me to cower out of the ring. As much as it pains me to say this, the ring announcer would give this call, "Continuing it's undefeated record, the winner, by technical knockout, the undisputed champion of the world, the telephone!"

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