Mr. Watson, Come Here, I Want To See You

Suggested Listening: Love It When You Call The Feeling

Galleons, from the moment I woke up this morning and literally fell out of bed (…go me), I’ve been nothing but a ball of awkward. If you could turn awkward into energy, we could have powered a little yellow star like our very own Sol for, oh, probably a good 2 billion years.

In the long string of ham-fisted encounters, clumsily handled situations, and various other degrees/states of awkward that occurred today, I made a phone call. Yes, me. The girl who despises the telephone with every fiber of her being (or maybe every string, if we follow the path of Witten). I mean, if given the opportunity, I would shove my phone into a block of C-4, detonate it, and watch the fireworks.

The telephone, as it was originally conceived (a device that transmits audio along an electrical current and receives said transmissions), is on its deathbed. Despite the fact that cell phone sales are skyrocketing (I’m pretty sure I’ve seen four-year-olds with them), the modern cell phone functions more as a minature computer and less as a telephonic device. New phones access the internet, and many of them come with a full keyboard, for texting (which, when you think about it, isn’t much different from instant messaging on your laptop).

E-mail is far more convenient than the telephone, as far as I’m concerned. I would throw my phone away if I could get away with it. ~Tom Hanks

In this, the prime of the digital/information/whatever age, it’s true that older forms of communication (telephone conversations, written letters, postcards) are being phased out in favor of newer methods (texting, video chatting, instant messaging, emailing). And there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. For one, emailing/instant messaging is a hell of a lot faster than sending a letter. It’s also cheaper (…free, really- I’m not counting the cost of internet per month because, let’s face it, you can pick up a free signal just about anywhere). And a text message can certainly be preferable to an actual phone call, especially if you just have to ask a question. You get to skip the pointless small-talk and deal with the meat of the issue. And video chatting is really superior to telephoning in that you get to see the other person, which is important because so much of our information gathering occurs via nonverbal clues.

I’m a big instant messager/emailer. I like my computer, and I tend to use it as my communication hub. Many people do. It’s not just faster and easier- it’s how we were brought up. My generation has grown up doing these things- it’s the standard. Hell, when I went to MSU and didn’t have an AIM screen name, people were stunned.

And while I normally am a big fan of avoiding the telephone… there’s just something about hearing another person’s voice that makes me loathe to dismiss telephoning completely. It’s funny- when I realize I miss a person, I find that the first thing I notice is missing from my life is their voice. And I yearn to hear it. The voices of people we care about are a balm to the soul. They soothe, they inflame, they delight.

Plus, we aren’t always at our computers (well… we shouldn’t be). Much of the time, we are unavailable for a full video chat. And, while seeing someone’s face is also a pleasant experience, video chatting is irritating in that you literally have to drop everything else in order to talk with them. You are expected to focus your full attention on them. Whereas, on the phone, you can get away with doing something else at the same time. If you are like me and have a hard time sitting still during… anything, it can be a real nuisance to not be able to do something else while chatting.

I know- our society is full of compulsive multitaskers. I’m the worst of the lot, so fucking deal.

In lieu of having a real, face-to-face conversation with a person, a telephone chat is really the next best thing. With a telephone conversation, you still get the benefit of vocal inflection. Things like sarcasm and dry humor are easier to detect when you are actually listening to another person’s voice rather than reading their words on a screen.

My personal issues with telephones aside (I’m a wild gesticulator, and that just doesn’t mesh well with telephone talk), I think they are underused in our society. We send an impersonal email rather than picking up the phone and hearing the rich nuances of another person’s voice. A message sent zipping through the tubes of the interwebs is not the same as the comforting voice of a loved one in one’s ear. I wish it wasn’t as inherently awkward to just call a person, for no reason other than to talk. It’s funny- I’ve never had a problem dropping by someone’s residence for a chat or babbling at them on AIM, but I always hesitate before picking up the phone. And, all too often, I put the phone back down, feeling a slight sense of shame and sadness that I can’t make the call I want to make.

That being said, I’m rubbish on the telephone. I cut people off. I babble worse than usual. And heaven for-fucking-bid I should have to leave a voicemail. When that situation arises, I get terribly nervous. The voice of the person I called gives their little spiel, than the irritating computer lady does her song-and-dance, and I spend the entire 30-seconds or 3-hours that that takes sweating and trying to remember simple words like “hello” and “the.” And when that horrible little beep goes off, I squawk out whatever is passing for a greeting in my head at the moment, then proceed to ramble half-incoherently in a voice pitched a half-octave higher than I normally speak until I’m either (mercifully) cut off or out-awkward myself and am left with a silence and no choice but to say “goodbye” and hang up.

Needless to say, my voicemails tend to be rambly train wrecks. So, I can’t help but feel a twinge of inherent oh lord, I couldn’t be a bigger dork if I tried when I think about the fact that today, of all days, when I’m attracting awkwardness like a supercharged magnet, I left a voicemail message. If I managed to not terrify the recipient with my idiocy, I’ll consider it a win.

You might be wondering why I made the call at all. I mean, I do hate the telephone, after all. Couldn’t I have waited for a day that was less of a klutzy clusterfuck to actually break down and use the telephone? The answer is, no, I couldn’t. I called because today was important- to call on any other day would’ve been pointless. So, squaring my shoulders and mustering my best inner Penny, I called my Sheldon to wish him well. And I probably managed to irritate him much as Penny does to her Sheldon, but that’s never stopped her, now has it?

Besides, it was nice to hear his voice- even if it was only in his voicemail message.

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