Getting fired by the boss in front of the office that contains a bunch of snickering jobless aunties is awkward. Watching a sex scene on television with your parents is awkward. Seeing an old photograph of yourself when you thought you looked ravishing and now, with the recalibrated perspective of time, you realize you look like a before and after version of some twisted “Put on 15 kg in limited time” medicine is awkward. All three have happened to me but you know what I find more awkward these days? Phone conversations. My friends wouldnt have agreed if they hadnt witnessed it. But yes, I cannot take calls and I hate taking them.
In my opinion, chatting on the phone is an inherent talent much like acrobatics or pole vaulting. To some it comes naturally. My dad conducts hour-long phone conversations with people every day, discussing his office politics, rehashing gossip, dissecting new ones,complaining to relatives and sometimes random people about how am not serious about marriage etc. Listening to this particular friend of mine on the phone with her man and her friends is like watching the flow of a river: gushing in smooth, powerful waves. Listening to mine, on the other hand, is like watching a Sylvester Stallone film: bleak silences punctured by spurts of action. ‘Chatting for fun’ on the phone is a concept beyond my limited powers of comprehension, now. I usually adhere to a strict ‘state your purpose and hang up’ policy. EEEEEEkkkssssss, I am beginning to think that I am turning into some sociophobic bimbo!
My problem these days is compounded by two factors:
1)My brain is not hardwired with a voice recognition software. Simply put, it means that when I get calls from unknown numbers I am pathetic at recognising the voice on the other end of the line. It could be my boss or my best friend of twenty years. Confessing ignorance might be at best an insult and at worst a fatal mistake. Hence, how do you decide the degree of familiarity your reply should contain? ‘How positively delightful to hear from you after so long’ might be a tad over enthusiastic when the caller is a friend you speak to every single day!
2)I get bored after sometime. The person on the other end might be speaking about a galore of things that interest him or her but i get bored! I cant help it if I have limited stuff that amuses me or entertains me, can I?! So I have started doing this Hi, hello, how are you and then talking for two minutes and hanging up on some pretext.
I try to avoid phone conversations as far as possible. Besides the ‘strictly business’ phone calls, the only ones I make are birthday calls. After ‘Happy Birthday’ and ‘What plans for the day?’ I hit a rock wall that I make half-hearted attempts to climb with some tepid hemming and hawing, until the birthday boy or girl puts us both out of our misery with the pretext of a call waiting. Or a call to ask someone something that I cannot type on a message coz it would be way too long.
Ending a phone conversation is something else that befuddles me. Phone etiquette dictates that the person who makes the call should be the one to end it. When is the right time to do it? How do you do it without invoking the charge of abruptness? How to know when you’re drained of conversation if you didn’t have any in the first place? So, I have started telling people that I have a call coming in (after punching some key on the phone so that it makes that kee kee noise) and so they would ask me to take that call. Nasty me ryt!?
More recently I’ve started practicing my ‘call centre’ voice, mostly inspired by a scene from a mallu movie I saw a while ago. A man receives a call from an unwelcome party and replies in a stiff, mechanical voice, ‘The person you’re trying to reach is currently on another call. Please try again later.’
P.S- Dont stop calling me though 🙂