Phone calls are nice. Everyone likes to get them. Especially now since phone calls are going the way of the letter, the way of carbohydrates, the way of Whitney…
But you can’t always text. You can’t always email. Some things must be dealt with directly and in real-time.
For example, say your grandmother died last week at the age of eighty-two while waiting for her favorite Thai restaurant to deliver her lunch. Naturally, I would learn of this tragedy through a social media update.
Grandma passed waiting for a larb salad 😦 (sent from my Iphone)
It would not be appropriate for me to comment on the thread “So sorry that grandma died hungry…” Nor would it be acceptable for me to send out a heartfelt text like, “Ugh! Sucks about your grandmother! Happy hour soon?”
No, that would have to be a phone call. We would need to converse. We would go on to talk about how she was old and death is normal and at least she ordered-in lunch. I mean, keeling over pad thai in public would’ve been super awkward. Or worse, say she had made a little lunch for herself, she might’ve rotted for days before the neighbors smelled her. Yes, it was convenient that the delivery guy was sick of being stood up and called the cops, determined to get the $14.50 grandma owed. Yes, I bet he felt bad after-the-fact.
Doctors are reliant on phones. It’s a matter of consideration. The following is not considerate.
Dear Lance Armstrong,
We regret to inform you that you have testicular cancer.
Dr. Kas Omani
No, that doesn’t work. You let a man grope your possibly cancerous balls and at the very least you deserve a phone call. Am I right? It’s an intimate act, the jostling of testicles. No, you weren’t dating but a little courtesy, please. If not lunch… a phone call will suffice.
The tough thing about phone calls is you have to answer them. And really, who answers the phone these days? We’re all in the middle of something. And that ringing, it’s so foreign. It feels as if your pocket is being violated. One beep/buzz for a text/email, but three, maybe even more—that’ s just an invasion of one’s personal space.
How would you like it if I banged on your front door and demanded an immediate response to a question? Once upon a time that might have been a reasonable request, but these days we like to dictate how and when we respond. It could be seconds or it could be hours later. Proceed as you see fit.
So the call comes and you don’t answer the call because it just doesn’t feel right. It’s all a bit odd. Off to voicemail it goes. Voicemail. It’s sort of like a fax machine. Some people still use them. I bet William Shatner has a fax machine in his office. I’m sure Morgan Freeman has a fax machine. They seem like guys that who like having a hard copy. Email + Printer = Just fax it over, bub!
But voicemail isn’t tactile. Voicemail rarely moves us forward. Usually it’s a lateral move, “Call me back.” At best, someone says everything you need to know but when you see how long message is, you delete on principle. Who has 2:30 to listen to someone else ramble?
Worst case, you do call back. “Hi. I just missed a call from you.”
And then someone who you don’t recognize pauses. She’s not used to getting phone calls either. She repeats your name. Way off. You repeat your name. She gets closer. You do this dance until you’re dealing with roughly the same amount of syllables. Sean Puffy Combs vs John Duffy Moans.
She moves on, which means you’re on hold. Maybe there’s music. If there is you’re lucky. You can think to yourself how shitty the hold music is or you can blast across your social media one of those tired status updates that reads: Dear (Insert Corporation Here), If you’re gonna keep me on hold for twenty minutes, at least have decency to play something besides Seal’s “Kissed by a rose.”
If you don’t have music the panic sets in. Yes, this is a phone call. It’s grave enough that it could not be emailed or texted. This means someone died. Or it means you’re going to die. Or you’re pregnant. Or you have lung cancer. Or a jury of your peers is going to decide whether you intentionally laundered that money. Or you have gangrene and the only option is to take a hacksaw to your femur.
… And still you wait. Hold, hold on.
You could hang up. Maybe they wouldn’t call back. Of course they’ll call back. It’s their duty. They owe it to you or you owe it to them. Friends don’t call friends. Lawyers call clients. Doctors call patients. Landlords call tenants. Strippers call lawyers. Lawyers call-in favors. Goons slash stripper’s tires. Stripper calls AAA. AAA calls a tow truck company. The guy in the tow truck accidentally runs over the stripper. Witness calls the police. Police call tow truck guy. Tow truck guy calls lawyer. Prosecutor calls disfigured stripper to the stand.
I’d expand, but the music has stopped.
Any minute now I’ll be speaking to someone about something that someone preferred not to write in an age when everyone would prefer to do anything but write.
I practice saying to myself, “For godsakes, man! Cut to the chase!” But I know I won’t say that.
So instead, I’ll wait—take my resting heart rate, think about my blood sugar, recount any activity that could send me up river.