My battle with telephonobia, or "fear of the phone"

I spent countless hours on the phone as a teenager, sitting in the hallway connected to the kitchen wall by that fascinating spiral umbilicu...

I spent countless hours on the phone as a teenager, sitting in the hallway connected to the kitchen wall by that fascinating spiral umbilicus called a phone cord. So what on earth created the monstrous phobia I now have about using a telephone?

I'd like to blame it on Mrs. Williams, the cranky old lady who called our house at 5 a.m. every time her newspaper wasn't delivered to her satisfaction (which was almost daily). Because my parents were out delivering said papers, I was left to drag myself to the phone and pick up ... I'll say this for the ol' broad (and she fits the definition), she could raise up a rant about nothing. Too wet. Off the sidewalk. Not bagged. Too far from her porch. Missing entirely. Ragged on one end. Broken rubber band. Missing coupon inserts. I could go on.

For the record, I choose to forgive Mrs. Williams (she's probably dead now anyway) for her sad and pathetic obsession with the delivery of her daily paper, and her need to vent her frustrations upon the 11-year-old at the other end of the line. May she rest in peace.

But I don't think Mrs. Williams is to blame for my issues with the phone. They started later. After I became a PW (pastor's wife).

There are, in my opinion, few things worse than having traumatized parishioners call your house at all hours of the day and night in need of counsel, assistance, or some kind of aid you are not qualified or equipped to provide. Equally horrible? Having church members call and tell you (the PW) they've decided to quit attending your fledgling church because of this or that... Ouch. Yeah. OK. I forgive HER, too...

And then there are the phone interviews for newspaper articles with ancient people. No, really, ANCIENT. The ones who can't hear a thing you say whether you are three feet away or on the telephone? Those interviews are painful. Almost as painful as making telephone sales calls to sell newspaper ads, which is another phobia I won't address in this post.

Suffice it to say, I've become a phone-o-phobe. When it rings, I cringe. Even voice mail gives me the heebie-jeebies because I will have to return the person's call. How I feel about the person on the other end of the line, or what they have to say, has no bearing on my gut-level response. It doesn't matter who the caller is, I hate the telephone, be it mobile or satellite or land line or payphone or office phone.

It's a bit of a handicap, really, especially in my line of work. To write an article, I have to (most of the time) call people. Strangers, even. Not only do I have to explain who I am and why I'm bothering them (yes, I ALWAYS assume I'm bothering them) I have to come up with questions they can answer that will fit into an article's format.

Oh, how I would like to be comfortable and confident and not AFRAID of the telephone!

For those of you who don't understand (I know you're out there, I can hear your eyeballs rolling), let me share with you the process of  making a phone call in my issue-riddled world. (There really is no process for receiving a call. Sometimes I can answer, and sometimes I simply can't.)

1. Plan ahead. Whether I need to make a call or reply to a message, I have to schedule (in my mind) when and where (always an issue in the mountains with a cell phone) I will make the call.

2. Fortify myself. Depending on who I'm calling and why, fortification might include prayer, chocolate, a run, or a glass of wine. Something to settle the flesh and numb the irrational terror. (Yes, I am perfectly aware that telephonobia is completely irrational, but that doesn't make it less painful.)

3. Prepare my message. Who am I calling? Why am I calling them? What will I say? What message will I leave if they don't answer?

4. Dial and wait. {{shudder}}

5. Depending on the response or lack thereof: 1) Bumble awkwardly through my spiel.  2) Leave a convoluted message and hang up, which only increases the anxiety, because now I have to wait for the person to call back.

That's where I'm at this afternoon, waiting for someone to call me back. Which leads me to wonder, how many of the people I'm calling are also telephonobes?

I would have been perfectly content in the days of the telegraph (old-fashioned texting) and letter-writing (old-fashioned email). As it is, send me a text or an email... just don't CALL! Calling, IMHO, is as bad as "dropping by" for an unannounced, uninvited, unplanned visit (also a throwback from PW days, apparently).

And as for Skype, and video-conferences, and webcams... HORRORS, with a capital "H"!

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