I have diagnosed myself with Phone Anxiety. I haven't researched it on the Internet. I hadn't even heard of it before I was in the car with Dirtbag earlier this week. Her phone rang in her purse which was at my feet. I reached into her purse to get her phone and she asked me to check who it was. Hers is a flip phone and I wasn't really familiar with how it worked, so I couldn't actually tell her who was calling. She took the phone away from me and looked at who it was. She then said that she wouldn't be answering the call.
"I actually screen most of my calls," she said.
"I do too!" I don't know why, but I feel an instant bond with my fellow phone call screeners. But she went on to elaborate.
"I have Phone Anxiety."
She described her condition as basically a strong dislike of answering the phone. She doesn't like to talk on the phone. That's like me, so I'm adopting "Phone Anxiety" to describe my condition. That way, I can blame my psychological problem rather than myself when my mother gets mad at me for screening my phone calls. Allow me to describe for you my phone anxiety.
1) I hate talking on the phone.
I really, really do. If you live in the same city as me, I see no point in chatting with you on the phone. You can come to my house. I can go to your house. We can go out for dinner, lunch, or breakfast. We can meet up on campus between classes. If you live out of town, I still hate chatting on the phone with you. It's sad, but I screen most phone calls coming in from out-of-towners. I'll never feel that it's a convenient time for me to talk to you. I'll always think that I've got something better to do, like watching TV, sewing scraps of felt together, or doing homework (and you know that if I choose to do homework rather than chat long distance, I really hate chatting long distance).
There are two notable exceptions to this rule. One is my mother. I will answer her phone call at any hour of the day. (I once told a boyfriend's mother that my mother was my best friend. She would call me just to chat at 4:00 a.m. on Saturdays. We'd chat for two hours and then she'd go on with her day and I'd roll over and go back to sleep. My boyfriend's mother said very pointedly, "Best friends don't call each other at 4:00 in the morning.") I call her between one and seventeen times a day. I spend at least an hour every Saturday chatting with her on the phone. I have no Phone Anxiety for my mother's calls.
The other exception was a surprise. It's Switchback. She's a long distance friend, but I actually like talking to her on the phone so I don't screen her phone calls. In fact, she called me tonight when I was at a New Year's party, three minutes before midnight. I excused myself from the party and brought in the New Year with her over the phone (I'll write about this later).
I should say about the out-of-towners that if they call me (text messaging is much more effective in these situations because I never ignore a text message) and tell me they're in town, I will drop everything to see them and spend time with them. They become more important than homework, television, and sewing scraps of felt together.
2) I feel every phone call should have a purpose.
My phone has three different ring tones for three different groups of people: 1. Family, 2. Default, 3. Ambrosia. Only one of these rings causes me anxiety. It's the Law & Order theme, or the ring for "Default." When I hear the Family ring tone, I know that the call has a purpose and won't last more than five minutes. This is the same for Ambrosia (I'll just keep you guessing as to why she has her own ring tone...). In fact, I was recently out to lunch with Mishkin. My phone rang (Default) and I checked to see who was calling. It was an in-town friend who sometimes calls to chat. I silenced her call. Several minutes later, my phone rang (Ambrosia). I didn't need to check who was calling since the ring tone told me everything. I answered the phone immediately. Why? Because Ambrosia never calls without a purpose. This time, she was calling me because the friend who had called me then called Ambrosia and explained she needed to return something to me. I gave Ambrosia instructions about what to do. Several minutes later, my phone rang again (Ambrosia). I answered by saying something like, "What could you possibly have to say to me that's new, if we just talked three minutes ago?" She explained that she called back our friend to explain my instructions and the friend had commented that it was funny that she called me but I didn't answer and Ambrosia called me and I answered. Ambrosia wanted to warn me. And her warning was appreciated, but I still haven't returned our friend's phone call. I figure the holidays are such an inconvenient time to call someone, and since the entire purpose of her call was to tell me that she was moving out of town, it's likely that we'll never talk again. (Mom, before you get mad, I'm exaggerating here.)
I feel no anxiety when my family members call because each call is to-the-point and purposeful. That's the type of call I like to receive. Sometimes these calls can be deceptive, however. DP never calls without a purpose. Sometimes he calls me around midnight to tell me that he's going grocery shopping and would like to invite me. Sometimes he calls about plans that we may have. Most of the time he's to-the-point, but sometimes, after the point has been discussed, he changes the topic to something else. I find myself up to my elbows in dish water, scrubbing dishes and uncomfortably balancing the phone on my shoulder for what I thought was going to be a very short phone call. (I love you, DP. Don't ever change.)
3. Curiosity trumps anxiety.
If you really want to get ahold of me and you think that I'm going to screen your phone call, your best bet is to call me from a phone number that is not programmed into my phone. My curiosity almost always trumps my anxiety. I must know who it is. Pathetically, I always answer the phone when the number is unknown because I'm so afraid of missing an invitation to go on a date. Realistically, date invitations from unknown numbers have only happened twice in my life, both a couple months after I first read my dating poetry in my single's ward in 2002. Still, four years later, I answer unknown numbers in the hopes that it may be a date invitation. Consistently, I am disappointed to hear Blockbuster on the other line, letting me know that my movies are overdue.
Recently, I called a ward member named Viper to ask for my brother's copy of Lost back. He had had it for several weeks. He didn't answer the phone. I noted that this was the third time that I was calling him in about four months, and that I never once got through to him. I always got his voice mail. As I left a message*, I wondered if he was a fellow phone call screener. In the message, I told him that I'd run to his apartment anyway to see if I could get one of his roommates to give me the DVDs. He lives less than a block away. I got to his door and rang the doorbell. There was no answer, but lights were on. I waited and did something that I never do: I rang the doorbell again. His roommate, who was talking on the phone, came to answer the door.
"Is this where Viper lives?" I asked.
"Yeah. But he just left. I swear he left at the exact same time that the doorbell rang the first time."
I looked around myself. "Well... I don't see him... he has my copy of Lost. Do you know where it might be?"
At this moment, I saw a bearded and toqued figure approaching the door. It was Viper. The roommate went back into the apartment to talk on the phone, leaving Viper and me alone outside.
"I just dropped it off at your apartment," Viper said. "I listened to your message and brought it over right away. We must have passed each other without noticing."
"So... if you got my phone message but didn't answer my phone call, does that mean that you screened my call?"
The moment he admitted that he had, I nearly threw him against the wall and started kissing him, but my common sense reminded me that I could never kiss a man named Viper.
He explained that he didn't answer phone calls from numbers he didn't recognize. I told him that I screened oppositely. I didn't answer phone calls from numbers I recognize. He assured me that I was now programmed into his phone, so he'd answer the phone when I called. I warned him that he was now programmed into my phone, so chances were good that I wouldn't answer the phone when he called. But that was a lie, because it looks like Viper's my best chance at going on a date this century.
4. I hate voice mail.*
Text messages are a God-send. Well, they aren't, but it might be convenient if He caught onto the trend and started sending me text messages like everyone else. They're the most effective way to communicate with me. It's so simple! Just a press of the button and I can read your message in two seconds. Like I said before, I never ignore text messages. Voice mail, on the other hand, is of the devil. I'll go for weeks without listening to my voice messages. It's so inconvenient to have to dial my own number, type in my password, go through the menu, and listen to mind-numbingly boring proof of why I shouldn't call you back.
And thus it is. Feel free to call me for any purpose. Nemesis once called me to make me sing the old Primary favorite, "I'm a Gay, Tra-La-La." Limon once called me for help with homework. Ambrosia used to call me to make sure that I was awake in the mornings when she needed to pick me up for work. Just please, don't call me without a purpose. It's like crying wolf. I'll never answer your phone calls again.