Not many people are aware of one of the biggest hurdles I’ve had to face in this starting-a-business thing, I would venture to say, bigger than the utter scarcity of capital, the lack of self-confidence and initiative, bigger even than the total absence of any business sense.
I’m scared of phones.
I’m convinced that it all started when I was a young’un living at home, back in the dark ages before answering machines. (Since my parents staunchly refuse to buy any new technology until the cooties wear off of it, there may very well have been answering machines around then, but you’d never have known at my house.)
Now those folks who read my rants know that I am generally opposed to blaming parents once you are out of your twenties. And since my twenties are but a distant and embarrassing blot on the horizon at this point, you’d think I would fall into the responsibility-claiming category.
But honestly, credit where credit is due.
The awful, dark, horrible truth: my Dad used to make me answer the phone.
Now I bet you are going to think that there were horrible people calling, creditors or some such, swearing and threatening removal of limbs to whoever answered the phone.
Well, no. No one horrible ever called. It’s just that, well, he hated talking on the phone, (could such a thing be genetic?) and so he wanted me to… you, know… how can I put this delicately… LIE.
Now I’m pretty sure there’s a commandment or something about not lying. But there he’d be right next to me, shaking his head so hard his ears were waggling, waving me off like a swarm of wasps were attacking, while I said into the phone, “Yeah, he’s right here, just a minute.”
Now you’re going to think that he beat me or didn’t let me eat for a week as a punishment. Not exactly. I think he just looked at me sternly and said, “From NOW ON, I am AT THE STORE. Do. You. Under. Stand. ?”
Of course I said yes. But then the next time it would be like 9 pm when the phone rang, and it would be someone asking for him, and there would be like 45 minutes of silence while the two halves of my brain conversed.
“Don’t forget! He’s at the store.”
“He’s not at the store, idiot. He’s in the bathroom.”
“Just say it already. It’s not hard! C’mon… ‘No, he’s at the store.’ ”
“Who the hell goes to the store at 9 pm? We never leave the house after like 3:30.”
And then inevitably I’d go get him to tell him someone was waiting on the phone for him.
And as soon as he hung up with them, I’d start to dread the next time the phone might ring.
Ever since I was a kid and had to live through this psychological trauma, I’ve hated to answer the phone, even my own phone at my own home, you know, with like my own number, under my own name, so that they are calling for ME and never for my DAD. Caller ID made it a little better, because at least then I knew what I was in for ahead of time.
But I figured I should never get a cell phone. If the home phone ringing makes my heart race, my hands shake and my ears bleed, then surely lugging around that kind of potential horror would be a bad thing.
But I think I went about it the right way, accidentally. The Pavlovian Dog training kind of way. For the first couple of months after I got my cell, the only people who called me were my husband and my sister, both of whom I love dearly and am always eager to talk to. Hence, the particular happy chime I picked out has now been imprinted in my neurotic brain as the precursor to a happy, non-horror movie conversation.
Now when a client calls asking about tutoring or a class, and I see an unfamiliar number show up on the phone, my first instinct is still not to answer it. Just hurl the phone as hard as you can, preferably TOWARD a hard surface, and then run and hide under the first piece of furniture you come to!
But then, for reasons beyond my understanding, I answer it anyway. And I’m not freaking out, only pleasantly curious as to who it might be and what they might want.
Is this how phones have been for you people your whole lives?
I’ve entered a whole new magical world of communication.