E.T. No Phone Home

It seems as though everybody has one simple, daily task that they absolutely loathe. Chores like paying bills, or vacuuming: easy, straightforward things that are mundane to 99% of the population, but manage to trip up and befuddle a small faction of people.

Hands down, my dreaded duty is making phone calls.

It’s a task that requires very little to no skill, and yet, I’m terrible at it. In person, I can interact with you like a somewhat-well-functioning human being. I can listen to what you say, provide clues to let you know I’ve understood you (or not), and then reply in an appropriate manner.

I’m a communicating champion.

Sort of.

But get me on the phone, and I turn into a total friggin’ weirdo. Imagine the rigidity of a robot combined with the wide eyes and manic behavior of a hyper Chihuahua, and you have an idea of what I’m like.

calls1

Talking on the phone causes me to instantly develop a disability that I’ll call “Impaired Phone Hearing” – meaning I have totally normal hearing in everyday life, but on the phone, I inexplicably cannot hear or understand half of what people say.

Also, after asking them to repeat themselves 2-3 times, I get worried that I’m bothering them, so I’ll pretend to understand them, even when I don’t.

Grandparent: “Amanda, I need a new kidney and you’re a match. Can I have yours?”

Me (not understanding): “I’m sorry, what did you say?”

Grandparent: “Can I have your kidney? Mine’s not working.”

Me (still not understanding): “Sorry, still didn’t quite catch that.”

Grandparent: “Gimme your kidney.”

Me (giving up): “Erm…alrighty then! Sounds good!”

Note: the above conversation didn’t actually happen. Probably.

Another issue is the lack of nonverbal cues. Facial expressions are an important part of communication, and without them, I’m apparently a social skills disaster. When I can’t see the other person’s reaction, I become paranoid that the mild, harmless joke I just made may have gravely disturbed them, so I back-pedal in an atrociously graceless way.

Parent of child client: “I tried to call you yesterday, but the lady who answered said no one was in the office.”

Me: “Yes, we all decided to just leave and go home for the day!” (Laughs jovially).

Parent is silent for less than half a second. Panic sets in.

Me: “JUST KIDDING! We were off for the holiday!” (Makes loud noise that is half-laugh, half-whimper)

Note: the above conversation actually did happen.

The absence of nonverbal cues mingles together with my Impaired Phone Hearing disability to create a perfect storm of phone awkwardness.

The worst of the stories comes from when I worked at a rehabilitation center, where my entire job involved calling people. All day long, I phoned former clients of the rehab and asked them overly personal questions about their sobriety and employment.

The following is a cringe-worthy phone conversation catastrophe that actually took place:

Me: “Hi, this is Amanda with Such-and-Such Rehab. Is this a good time to answer a few questions?”

Guy: “Uh, how long will it take?”

Me: “Only about five minutes!”

Guy: “Well, actually, this isn’t a good time. My son is dying.”

calls3

Gulp.

His devastating statement kicked the perky attitude right out of me. Based on the information I had about this client, I knew he was young, and therefore, must have had a very young child. I genuinely felt shocked and sad on his behalf.

Me: “Oh, my God. I am so sorry, sir.”

Guy: “Eh, it’s fine.”

calls4

Hmm. Guy on phone sounded remarkably relaxed about his dying child, which only increased my shock and discomfort. I know people grieve in different ways, but who feels “meh” about their kid dying? Several painful seconds passed before I was able to form a polite and professional response.

Me: “Why don’t I just call back at another time. Do you think a month from now would be okay?”

Guy: “Uhhh, you can just call me tomorrow…”

calls6

Confusion riddled my brain. His son was dying today, but tomorrow would be a better time to talk? What could he possibly mean by that? And why did he sound confused, too? What the hell was the matter with this dude? I struggled to come up with a reply.

Me: “Uhh….Nah. It’s… uh, cool if we put the follow-up off for a while. I’ll just call you back in about a month, okay?” Please let this conversation be over now.

Guy: “Seriously, it’s fine. I’ll just charge it tonight and it’ll be good to go tomorrow.”

calls5

…WHAT?!

Oh.

OH.

Turns out, his phone was dying. Not his son. He didn’t even HAVE a son.

The man simply declined the follow-up interview because his battery was going out, and I responded with over-the-top sympathy and offers to give him space.

Please sir, take thirty days to mourn your dying phone. No, no – I insist.

Is anyone else strangely inept on the phone? Please tell me there are more of “me” out there.

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “E.T. No Phone Home

  1. momsranting

    Ha!! Yes! I am so brain dead on the phone, I will doodle my OWN NAME and identifying information so I can just read it back to the person on the phone instead of blanking out when they ask me. “What, you want to know my date of birth???…Ummm……. right.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s