I realized many years ago that I have a phobia. I'm pretty sure I got it from my mom, and I'm pretty sure it's here to stay. I'm scared of the phone. Or actually, phone calls. I don't particularly like to make them or receive them. I can count on one hand how many people I don't mind talking to, which is bad since I know a decent amount of people. I hear the phone ring, I get this little knot in my stomach. Not a big one, mind you. Just a little one, like when you realize you forgot to set the DVR for a show you were looking forward to. Kinda makes you anxious but you know you'll get over it. That's how I feel when I hear my phone do its funny little new-fangled-cell-phone ring. So I started to wonder, aside from genetics (Mom): Why does it bug me so much? Why does the phone ringing make me feel like some dude just shouted "Fire!" while I'm tied to a post with a blindfold on?
And it hit me: conversation. Or, rather, the lack thereof. I truly lament the lost Art of Conversation. It sounds silly, I know. I mean, conversation is pretty basic, right? The phone rings, you answer it, you talk, you hang up. Except, more often than not, it doesn't work out that way. Usually the phone rings, I pick it up (after staring at it for a beat or two), I say 'hello', and then someone starts talking. And talking. And talking. And talking. Some of the people that call me must've been pearl divers in their past lives because they don't need to breathe. They manage to talk for hours without taking a breath. I like to say that "they speak without punctuation". You know those annoying Facebook postings where someone writes something without any capital letters, commas or periods? omg!ashleyandmejustwentoutdrinkingandgotsomessedup! That's how these people talk. I end up spending two or three hours nodding (to myself, since they can't see me) and inserting the occasional "ah" or "mm-hmm" or a generic chuckle so they know I'm still there and awake. But I find my mind wandering about 20 minutes into the monologue once I realize it's going to be one of "those calls". I start thinking about random things like updating my grocery list, or about how I've never seen "Gone With the Wind" or "Citizen Kane", or cat hair. Pretty much anything except what they're rambling on about. Why? Because I haven't gotten to say anything!
To me, conversation is about the exchange of thoughts. Give and take. I ask how you are because I care to listen to you tell me how you are, and you do the same. What I usually get is:
"Hey! How ya doin', Steven?"
"I'm good, Sarah. I went to the–"
"Omigod! You won't beLIEVE the week I've had. There was a swarm of locusts right after we blah, blah, blah-dee-blah, blah..."
It's like white noise. Just this hum of voice-sounding static. I realized that most people care far more about their own comings and goings than mine. And most people don't listen. Because, honestly, they really don't care. They're not bad people, evil people. They just don't care. And, phone-martyr that I am, I sit and listen for hours on end to self-absorbed drivel from a seemingly endless stream of 'friends'. If I could get back all the time I've wasted engaged in tedious, long-winded diatribes about co-workers, traffic, whatever, I'd be a teenager.
Now, lest I sound angry or ungrateful, I'm extremely fortunate to have a few people I truly call friends. Not acquaintances. Not intimate acquaintances. Friends. My friends can talk to me until every word in the English language has been spoken twice. And, in spite of myself and my rantings, I will probably continue to be an ear to whoever feels the need to talk endlessly and has used up all the people that actually give a crap.
But still, y'know, I'm just sayin'...