Hanging on the Telephone

Yesterday, I spent 20 minutes clicking my way deeper and deeper into a company’s website, looking for someone’s email address. Unless you’re looking for an incredibly specific, possibly illegal item that’s only sold by a tiny curio shop in the Ukraine, that’s a stupid amount of time to spend looking for anything online. I was determined to find the address or die trying, though, because my only other option was calling her.

Yep. I had her phone number the whole time. When it comes down to it, I would rather fly a rickety, snake-infested plane to the Ukraine to hunt down an incredibly specific, possibly illegal item that’s only sold by a tiny curio shop there than pick up the phone and call someone.

More like Alexander Graham HELL, am I right?

More like Alexander Graham HELL, am I right?

Possible Reasons I’m Afraid of the Phone

  • It makes me feel stupid. I’m not good at talking in person, and that’s when I have body language clues helping me out. On the phone, I can’t tell if we’ve lapsed into a companionable silence or if I’m just an idiot who missed her cue.
  • It proves I am stupid. I was once on the phone with a friend when another call came in. I hit the ‘ignore’ button and continued a long rant about my love life until the person on the other end started laughing. That’s when I realized that I’d hit the wrong button, hung up on my friend and was now telling some uncomfortable things to a UPS employee.
  • It pushes me out of my comfort zone. I’m kind of a control freak. If I’m sending a text or writing an email, I have all the time in the world to think about what I’m saying, double-check my facts and make bad jokes. I would like phone calls a lot more if it was acceptable practice to write a script and send it to the other party beforehand, knowing neither one of us will deviate from it.
  • The call could be coming from inside my house.

I used to have a job that required me to call people at inconvenient times, ask them annoying questions and then let them yell expletives at me. Sometimes I had to call three people at once. People pay a lot of money for that kind of immersion therapy, but it was no use. I still panic every time I have to send or receive a phone call.

Things That Happen Every Time I Receive a Call

  • If I don’t know the number calling me, I stare at the phone wide-eyed until it stops ringing. I don’t move the whole time, because then it might see me.
  • If the caller is someone who loves and cares about me, there’s a high probability I’ll still freeze and stare at the screen for several seconds before hitting ‘ignore’ in panic. If they really loved and cared about me, they would know not to call. Ever.
  • If the incoming call is an important one, on a good day I’ll take three deep breaths and answer in a tiny voice. On a bad day, I’ll throw my phone at the nearest person and make them pretend to be me.


Things That Happen Every Time I Make a Call

  • I don’t.

If I have to make a call, I’ll cross my fingers and wish aloud that no one picks up as soon as it starts ringing. Sometimes they answer mid-wish and that gets kind of weird. When I actually do get a voicemail, it goes to my head a little. Obviously the universe heard me and did my bidding. There’s a brief rush of power, but then I get to the beep and I’m in a new kind of hell. I can’t leave a coherent voicemail for the life of me.

Leave Your Message After the BLEEP

  • On the Squeaky-to-Demon-Possessed Female Voice Scale, my natural speaking voice falls somewhere near Slightly Deeper Than Average. Unfortunately, I suffer from Phone Voice Syndrome. My default telephone voice sounds like it came from a shy, helium-filled mouse. If I try to compensate, I wind up with a very low, husky voice that is wildly inappropriate for most voicemail situations.
  • Sometimes I hear the beep and my mind goes blank. I spend the first half of the message stalling to cover my ineptitude. I left a message on Monday that went something like, “Hi, I’m calling… My name is Stephanie. Hello there. I have called you because a guy named Brian gave me your number and said you were a good person to call so I called you. He actually gave me the wrong number but I looked you up online because I’m a nerd and I fact-check for a living and I found the right number…f-for you. Thank you! Not you, sorry– I just walked out the door and someone held it open. ANYWAY. I need to set up a house inspection. I need to get a house… inspected.” I panicked and hung up before remembering to leave my number.
  • On the rare occasion that I don’t freeze up, I feel like the message I’m leaving is too blunt, so I throw in some small talk. Tip: do not attempt to chat with a silent recording device. Inevitably, I get flustered and wind up finding the weirdest way to say something I didn’t need to say at all. I left Jordan a message along the lines of, “Sorry I missed your call, call me back when you get this. …I just got done cleaning my bathroom. Really cleaning it. Now I’m cleaning my vacuum. Is that crazy? Ha ha ha. I’m cleaning my vacuum! So… call me.” He refuses to delete it. This is not the first time I’ve recorded evidence that I’m a dummy around cute boys, but I hope it’s the last.

I majored in communication and I’m basically fused to my cellphone, but that is in no way an invitation to call me. Text me, tweet me, email me, send me a snapchat, even poke me on Facebook. For the love of all that is holy, do not call me. I will come after you.

Because this is what pops up when I do.

And this will be the last thing you see.


  1. Nadia

    Ha! I knew I was normal! (I don’t answer calls unless it’s from my mum or my boyfriend, and that’s only ’cause they’ve experienced all the awkward firsthand.)

  2. Lilly-clad Goth

    Oh sister, I know how you feel. I never answer my phone, and if someone is silly enough to call and leave a voice mail, I send a text in response. They eventually get the picture. I. Do. Not. Talk. On. The. Phone. (Okay thank was kinda obnoxious.)

  3. brokenbelladonna

    Another phone hater here, glad I’m not alone. I do nearly all my communicating via instant messengers and facebook chat where possibly. Totes awkward when people actually want to meet up and talk. Eep.

  4. Maggie Carlise

    Reblogged this on MAGGIE'S BLOG and commented:
    I’ve never actually re-blogged anybody before…but OH MY GOD. This is everything I feel about talking on the phone, hilariously packaged into one fantastic read. In other words, I LOVE THIS!!

  5. imsupersaiyan

    LOL This was a great post, its interesting to see the view from the other side – I’m very comfortable with talking on the phone. I’m not so comfortable with electronic communication – like facebook. Excellent post! :)

  6. allthoughtswork

    Have you tried vodka?

    I’m almost the polar opposite of you, except for the call screening. I don’t believe respectable life was possible before caller ID. I will enjoy hours of scintillating conversation via keyboard, phone lines, or across the three feet of air involved in most American’s personal space in public. But it’s gotta be scintillating.

    A trick I use to perk up my voice and persona before leaving a voice message for someone I don’t know well is this: I watch a few minutes of stand up comedy on You Tube, or I recall an excellent dirty joke, or I replay the memory of a fun time I had recently with friends that involved belly laughing until we snorted. Goal is to get smiling and happy; the smile will come through in your voice and intrigue the person on the other end and the happiness will inoculate you against any unpleasant reply.

    I mean, hey, they may turn out to an asshat but that was some good dirty joke!

  7. Angela

    I feel exactly like this! My old job used to involve making/taking calls from colleagues in other countries who didn’t always have a great level of English. Asking them for information, in particular asking them to spell out names or addresses for me in heavily accented English was a whole new kind of awkward. I would ALWAYS avoid using the phone when I could!

  8. missraychanel84

    hahahaa! Here I thought I was the only one with this problem! For years, I refused to call for take out. I always felt stupid, even though the person KNOWS I’m calling for food! It feels like cruel and unusual punishment. Nobody else around me seems to have a phone problem except me, so I thought something was wrong with me, lol. I’m so sharing this post with my friends! :)

  9. I Have The Whistle

    This is exactly what is wrong with this world. We’ve lost the value of human to human personal interaction. Voice to voice, person to person, face to face collaboration. We hide behind our computers and handhelds (can’t call them phones — while they are capable but no one under the age of 30 [I’m generalizing] seems to know how to actually used them to make a voice call). If someone texts or emails more than twice in a short period of time and I have their phone number I will pick up the phone and call them. It may be old school in this day and age but it is highly effective and much more personal. Texting and email are slow, inpersonal and lack a true emotional connection (emoticons do not fill that void)

  10. bernasvibe

    Wowwww I didn’t realize this many people(after reading the comments); had an issue with voice-to-voice communication..I feel somewhat the exact opposite..Texts & emails for me are a quick way to stay connected with my very large circle of fam/friends..But nothing beats good ‘ole verbal conversations..I’m a people person & it keeps things personal..What I’ve noticed with texts(much as I love texting..) ; misinterpretations can happen. Appreciated reading the flip side though! 2 thumbs UP for sharing

  11. AbsentElemental

    I may well be the only twenty-something who prefers phone communication over texting/emails/chat/Twitter. That’s not to say that those other forms of communication aren’t effective — quite the contrary is actually true as they’ve become integral parts of the modern societal communication structure. That said, talking on the phone allows you to communicate feeling with words that just can’t be done through text-based communication. Until there’s a font for sarcasm, I’ll still call people regularly.

  12. Rose Red

    Ha ha, I totally agree! This post made me laugh and nod my head in recognition. And I’m 40, so it’s not a case of growing up in the age of email/text/Twitter….I can do face to face conversation, I prefer email, but I HATE the phone! Always have. I would phone the person in the next door office at work rather than walk over to speak to them, and I would wait for the person sitting across from me to go out so that I could email them rather than start a conversation. I consider this a personality trait rather than a sign of the times. I’m an introvert; if I’d been born in the last century I would have been a reclusive letter writer, which might have been considered OK in those days.

  13. Rose Red

    Ha ha, I totally agree! This post made me laugh and nod my head in recognition. And I’m 40, so it’s not a case of growing up in the age of email/text/Twitter….I can do face to face conversation, I prefer email, but I HATE the phone! Always have. I would email the person in the next door office at work rather than walk over to speak to them, and I would wait for the person sitting across from me to go out so that I could email them rather than start a conversation. I consider this a personality trait rather than a sign of the times. I’m an introvert; if I’d been born in the last century I would have been a reclusive letter writer, which might have been considered OK in those days.

  14. Anne

    Great post. Thank you. I am so much like you–even down to the Communication studies–that it is scary. I’m delighted to see from the comments how many people also feel as we do about the telephone!

  15. thestoryofrei

    The more I talk to other people about it, the more I realize that phone anxiety isn’t that uncommon. I always thought it was just me. The only people I ever talk to on the phone are really important calls I can’t avoid, and my mom and grandparents. Everyone else either texts me, or Facebook/Twitter/E-mail etc.

    It’s funny, because I’ve had jobs where making phone calls was a part of my daily task list, and if it was for business purposes, I could do it no problem. If it’s for my own personal reasons, it’s like pulling teeth. No literally, sometimes I’d rather have teeth pulled than have to make those phone calls.

    It’s nice to know I’m not alone in it, but I wish the rest of the world would get on board with making more things available online.

  16. carlcymru

    glad its not just me with phones, much prefer the impersonal nature of social media, weird sociopath that i must be

  17. WhimsyComfits

    I thought I was the only one in the world like this! Nice to know I’m not alone in my loathing of phone calls ;-)!

  18. kyocrisis

    That’s funny, but why didn’t you text the person and ask for their email address? or FB them if you had their name lol.

    Still, I hate calling people on the phone. Most of the time too it seems like when you do have to call someone that you know, they act like you should either be on fire or dying in some other horrific way since you decided to call them and waste their precious time, because they’re busy playing Candy Crush Saga and need to get to the next level.

  19. teannadorsey

    I didn’t realize so many people had the same problem as me. I have no problems with face to face interaction, and I’m a people person but there’s something uncomfortable talking to someone over the phone and I only pick up if I’m sure I know the person calling, and there’s no way to avoid it. I don’t have caller id, so I do the panic and stand still thing.

  20. broadsideblog

    You guys are a hoot….Sounds like you have a serious case of phone PTSD if you used to have people swearing at you over the phone. I much prefer being sworn at in person. Kidding.

    I have to talk to people all day every day by phone in my work as a journalist. There’s a lot you can’t really get from a text or email that you’ll pick up immediately in a phone call.

  21. The Beach Diaries

    I would much rather text/email than discuss things on the phone because it gives me an opportunity to be thoughtful about my responses. Especially to open ended questions posed by the caller, such as “Are you free this weekend?” If it’s an offer I can’t refuse, I’d like to be able to show availability without fully committing myself until I know what it is (“Remember that all-expenses-trip for 2 to Aruba I won? Well my mom can’t go so are you free this weekend…to go in her place?”) Or, in the alternative, put the kibosh on any nonsense I’m about to be asked to partake in (“My kid has H1N1 so he can’t go on our family trip to Aruba. Are you free this weekend…and can he stay with you?”) Left to my own devices on the phone, I will do ridiculous things like agree to favors I’d rather not do, like participate in telephone interviews or commit myself to phone fundraising pledges. Yikes!

  22. lauzlau

    Funny stuff! I talk on the phone day in and day out & really enjoyed your post. You gave some insight as to the callers’ “hang-ups.” I get freaked out leaving a voicemail w/o first reviewing it. But, lately I’ve been living dangerously & doing just that!

  23. Cassie H

    Lol! I am stifling my belly laughs so I don’t wake up my sleeping children. I love being around people and having deep conversation, and I’m general I consider my phone demeanor to be quite good (former admin asst here). However I am the EXACT same way when it comes to writing. I much prefer to write down what I want to say via email or fb or blog so I can edit, edit, edit.
    Somehow in person I never have the right words- until 10 minutes later after I’ve walked away. THEN it comes to me and I’m left wondering, why couldn’t I have thought of THAT back THERE? It was so much more clever than the smile and nod ;)

  24. mortsltd

    Hey totally get it. I’m not getting any younger and every minute counts for me. you know the stats for time waiting on the internet? It must be massive, just like queuing for something like the new Apple iPad.

  25. Jenifer Brown

    Love this post and so glad to have discovered you on Freshly Pressed. I feel the same way about the telephone. Even thought about blogging about this subject myself. For one thing I can barely understand people over the phone. The only person I really enjoy talking to via phone line or satellite signal is my mom and my editor. And if it wasn’t for texting my brother and I would not have the continuous bonding relationship we are so grateful for. I love interpersonal contact. But every time the phone rings I let out an exasperated sigh and say out loud, “Why won’t you just text me?!”

  26. BAGCPA

    Reblogged this on Notes From Bruce and commented:
    Checking out recent blog posts, I came across this funny and frighteningly accurate account of how many people relate to their phones. I have never been a big one to talk on the phone either, but I think I might be slightly less phonephobic than this humorous blogger.

  27. andreablythe

    This is hilarious. I hate making phone calls, too, and generally try to avoid it. I have friends and family who love the hour long phone calls, and they always make me cringe. I keep trying to do things while I’m talking and end up not paying attention to what they’re saying.

  28. RSpeaks

    A much similar experience but simply owing to the fact that my outgoing or incoming calls lately are all in French and I have just moved into France a while ago. But I will admit what you have with making calls I have the same with door bells.

  29. Aussa Lorens

    Ugh, I cannot STAND when people call me– I too just stare at the phone like it’s malfunctioning. I have a coworker who will leave me a voicemail and then send an email letting me know she left a voicemail. *brain melts*

  30. Taswegian1957

    Wow! So many people who hate phones. I thought it was just me who was weird that way! I can force myself to make calls that have to be made and have even done it for pay but my sister is the only person I would willingly ring just to chat, although we use instant messaging now. I can’t explain why I don’t like it. I just don’t and have always been that way and I’m not young. I thought email, instant messaging and texting were great inventions.

  31. clumsywithwords

    I feel exactly the same! Even worse if it is job related: asking for a job or getting the news about one over the phone. I cannot make myself call and ask about a position that I am interested in, even though I think about it all the time. And in my country they really want you to show interest and keep track of your applications.

  32. babyandabirkin

    Lmao love this!! And I am the same way! I blame it all on texting. Why call when we can text?!?! Now I’ve lost all my phone calling/answering skills. They aren’t used enough and my skills have dulled into awkward conversations where I’m praying my phone will die or loose the signal so I can escape. Lol. Thank you for sharing this!! “I’m cleaning the vacuum… So call me back” LMAO

  33. shitfiresavematches

    I am at the point in my life where I know that what typically makes me anxious and uncomfortable is something I should just get the fuck over already.

    In a way I am relieved I was at the depths of depression and alcoholism at an early age. I can’t even take myself or my stupid anxieties seriously anymore. I did not want to call my older brother AT ALL yesterday to wish him happy birthday. i kept looking at the clock and saying ‘oh, i can do it later.’ finally when i got dark i sat down with some wine and called him – hey, i’m not perfect.

    thankfully he didnt answer.

    I’m too self-aware to not feel like an asshole when texting. i talk to very few people and calling them when i need or want to speak to them is uncomfortable but it’s a decent thing to do and the only reason i wouldnt want to is because i’m a giant pussy who can’t face life.

  34. afastpacedlife

    Oh gosh, I hate phone calls too. When my bf and I first starting dating, he would call me and we would have very short conversations. At first he thought he always caught me at a bad time. Then he wondered if I was upset with him. Finally he realized that it was nothing personal and I hated talking on the phone. Now he demonstrates his love for me by not calling. :)

  35. cyrabharucha

    Wow, what a relief to find out I’m not the odd one out :), article & comments here proved it :). You are so right about going clueless on what to talk to endless, unstoppable barrage of question we encounter, once we call some helpline. Really hilarious, keep them coming.

  36. spartacus2030

    Awe! A nut-bat after my own heart! I won’t come out of my room cuz I’m afraid someone’s going to ask for but one more favor… Great blog! Tee-hee! Funny girl…

  37. duochromatic

    Yes! Various versions of “Hanging on the Telephone” were bouncing around in my head for no particular reason so I had to see what this was about… I very much hate taking on the phone. I was on the messageboard for a band that covered “Hanging on the Telephone” discussing starting a “phone hatred army” haha.

  38. webdesignredefined

    Honestly, as a business owner, occasionally I am on the phone with a client, or potential client, and my voice squeeks. I hate the phone.. especially when I get to that point where I’m out of breath trying to explain something.

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  40. maggie

    There are 89 other comments on this blog post and I am number 90. Probably that means you won’t see this, or maybe you’ll see this and think I’m a slightly unbalanced, (mostly) harmless twit with a bunch of cats and an unhealthy obsession with commenting on blogs. Not so. I don’t have a cat, I’m more than slightly unbalanced, and I rarely comment on blogs. However, I feel very strongly that I must comment on yours. I have been reading your blog for a few weeks, and have come to a few conclusions:
    1. I love your blog.
    2. You and I are very much alike. In fact, we could be the same person, except one of us is much (much) younger and hipper than the other.
    3. I’m not good at the whole commenting thingy.
    Keep up the good work. You are fantabulously funny, and a brilliant writer. And I sort of want to hate you for that, but I don’t.

  41. Viktoria Michaelis

    I guess I’m the lucky one, then. Since I am mute I do not use the telephone as a telephone at all. If anyone tries to call me it means that they don’t know me, so I feel quite comfortable in not having to answer them – or get my girlfriend to talk on my behalf.

  42. cdukulele

    That was hilarious and painful at the same time. It brought back memories from my first job as a receptionist, when I accidentally hung up on the lady who wanted to speak to my boss.

  43. Brad Birky

    I know exactly what you mean! I’m pretty sure I flinched every time you mentioned the phone, which pretty much means I just looked like I was having a seizure while I was reading this.

  44. iheartsiena

    I avoid talking on the phone as much as possible! I don’t know why but I suddenly become extremely formal, even to the closest of my friends, and its like you have to fake laugh, or say something awkwardly funny, when in actual fact you may just be a funny person in real life. I prefer to just message with a ‘K’

  45. David Der Kaiser Caicedo

    Hey, it is really interesting and funny to know there is someone feeling the opposite! I totally hate texting, because it is too impersonal and cold. So If it is impossible to talk person to person I always prefer the phone.

  46. localace

    Wow, I also thought I was the only one with phone anxiety. I always feel stupid when I talk. I always express myself better through writing than speaking. If I have to talk out loud, I feel as if my mouth gets disconnected from my brain….then weird noises come out. lol

  47. Daphne Shadows

    AAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!! I love you right now. I could hug you… except you’re across the interwebs and that won’t work. But anywho. AMEN!
    I thought I was the only one. Mwahahahahahaha! Now I can say I’ve actually HEARD of someone else who loathes talking on the phone.

    “If the caller is someone who loves and cares about me, there’s a high probability I’ll still freeze and stare at the screen for several seconds before hitting ‘ignore’ in panic. If they really loved and cared about me, they would know not to call. Ever.” I hate it when they then get pissed off because you don’t want to talk to them on the phone. Hello? I hate talking on the phone. I’ve told you this how many times?

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  49. chris pye

    Thanks Stephanie. I love it! As a new blogger, I’ve been trawlinh WordPress looking for stuff that inspires me. I love that your peicves are short and punchy and chanel so much personality. Thanks :) Chris (chocolatecakeforthebrain.com)

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