Call Me, Maybe
The telephone and I have always had a fraught relationship, to put it mildly. As a child, I greatly resented the black plastic monster my mom seemed to be surgically attached to during her daily mega-chats with girlfriends. The three of us sisters would deliberately act up, just to try and lure her focus away, but to no avail. Joanie and Her Phone were an inseparable duo.
Ironically, the night my sister Mo was killed, the phone was off the hook—the one night of her life when she really needed to be available. Mom did that every night so that she and Dad could eat their TV dinners and smoke their cigs in peace; this particular night, she forgot to put the phone back on, which led to the police arriving at 4 AM with the terrible news.
In later years, Mom and I would talk every Saturday morning while my kids watched cartoons. The long distance rates were down; we could chat without fear of running up the bill too much. I remember enjoying these leisurely talks, playing with the curling cord as we shared tales of our week.
When did I start hating talking on the phone? I think maybe it was during my mental health crisis year, when suddenly everything I had loved I now hated, and vice versa. I was super impatient when anyone called, and I could barely restrain myself from humming and drumming my fingers if the conversation lagged for a millisecond. Ever since, the internet has been my friend, email my preferred means of communication. Just think—I could send a message whenever I wanted, even if that was 4 AM, and the recipient could respond on their own schedule! Texting works too (although 4 AM is not the best time to attempt this).
Now, four of my five children live away from me, at various distances, and I’m back on the telephone. Each of them has a different schedule (as does my sister in Hawaii), and I’m constantly erring, sending greetings to a deeply sleeping person, or a working one. I now awaken before 5 AM, so any time after 8 PM is my twilight zone—sadly, the times my family is most likely to want to converse. I’ve been known to promise to call them back in ten minutes, only to fall deeply asleep in the interim. Are my kids as annoyed as I was when Mom kept gabbing with AnneMarie or Joby? Probably!
I read science fiction about telepathy, and wonder if this cool brain-to-brain shortcut will happen in my lifetime. That would be so relaxing! But then my mind would be an open book (is that how it’d work?) and maybe my caller would be able to tell when I was annoyed with them! Maybe we’re better off with a gap between call and response, a chance to regroup and choose the best time to engage.
So my kids: call me!! Everyone else: let’s figure something else out!