It’s funny. The phone has always sort of confounded me. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer. Or, maybe it’s because my brain doesn’t process purely aural information as well as it processes visual and scribed information. For whatever reason, I’ve just never been much of a phone person.
You know who is a phone person? My mom. She talks to her siblings and other family on the phone for several hours each and every day. It’s amazing. Annoying at times, when you’re constantly only hearing 1/2 of an energetic Spanglish conversation, but amazing nonetheless. In contrast, when my brother and I are on the phone, our normal loquaciousness changes into one of being a pair of laconics. It’s like we can’t get off the device fast enough. And trying to talk to my dad on the phone, when he was alive of course, was even worse. Total awkwardity.
Maybe I have a problem with it because the phone forces me to divorce myself, temporarily, from the world. It requires A LOT of my attention (so you know, I’m definitely not the sort of person who can drive and phone…fortunately, only in rare circumstance have I ever had to do it…hands-free, of course). When I’m on the phone I can’t really do anything else useful. My mom is able to go through her normal chores without skipping a beat. Again, it’s amazing to behold.
This phone ineptitude of mine is sometimes more of a burden than I’d like. When I talk to Mary*, or Dale, or the girls, I feel like I’m not coming anywhere close to keeping up my end of the personal interaction. Conversely, they tell me similar things when it comes to writing (as you can doubtless tell, I write a lot)…they sometimes feel intimidated by the flood of words I can spew forth. And it’s not that I don’t want to talk to them…I do very much. I just never learned how.
A significant aspect of this may be editing. Despite what you might think from all the typos, I do go back and edit most of the stuff I write unless I’m very tired or very rushed. I don’t really get that opportunity on the phone. It tough when you want to be specific in what you say and there just isn’t the time to do that when immediacy is the method of the moment. I never want to say the wrong thing. To unintentionally cause someone else distress is something I try very had not to do. It’s sort of the “nice guy” baggage I’ve always carried around.
Maybe it’s due to me not having cultivated the “chit-chat” social grace. I’m a conversationalist. I like talking to people in a relaxed setting. I’ll talk (at length or ad nauseam) on just about any topic under the Sun. That to me is a very enjoyable way to while away several hours. You get to actually know people that way without much else interfering. You just don’t get that with the phone. At least, I don’t.
I don’t know. It’s confounding. Even during those times when I’ve tried to be more of a phone person, I just can’t maintain it. It was never part of my common existence. I was either with people, or I was off to myself. Talking on the phone just never entered into it.
Then we get into the bit of how imposing a phone can be. While I’m almost always eminently interruptible, I see how busy everyone else is with important things: work, kids, spouses, leisure, etc. Who am I that I should think you need to drop everything to talk to me? Ironically, this is a comment made by some of my high school classmates at one of our reunions when they said that they always wanted to get to know me better, but I always seemed so busy. Honestly, I’ve always had the time. Like I said, I can almost always be interrupted without it being an imposition. I know it doesn’t really make much sense. It’s actually has sort of a Japanese flavor to it (not that I’m Japanese): “Would you allow me the honor of feasting my eyes on your magnificent garden” vs having your guest “glance at my miserable garden” even if both gardens are equivalent.
At any rate…to all you friends and family and other ships at sea, please know that I don’t mean to not be in touch. I treasure all the moments we have in pretty much all the ways we have them. Sometimes it’s tough to fight against one’s own nature…and that’s my only excuse.
See also: The Idiocy of Text Messaging