I hate getting phone calls. It doesn’t matter who you are. Publisher’s Clearing House could call me and tell me I’ve won one million dollars and I’d find a way to complain about it. I just don’t like talking on the phone, but what’s worse than actually talking on the phone is the stress that I go through simply anticipating the call itself. If someone calls me, I’ll stare at the called i.d. and begin thinking of reasons that this particular person or organization could have for calling me. This sets up a series of expectations. It’s a rarity that someone meets my expectations whereas almost all callers seem to fall short of my expectations regardless of how low they may be set at.
Many times I won’t even pick up the phone because the caller i.d. sufficiently scares me so as to deter me from talking to the person on the other end of the line. I pick up about two to three percent of the phone calls that I receive. I feel bad for that two to three percent that has to talk to me. As comfortable as they probably feel on the phone, I feel equally uncomfortable on my end. They may talk in a friendly and almost soothing tone while my voice sounds petrified and confused at best. What’s worse is that I overthink the situation and begin to wonder: “what does the person on the other end of the line think of me?” Most people would answer: “who cares?” But I’m really concerned with how I am perceived by the person on the other end of the call who I will never see or in all likelihood meet. It’s a strange neurosis, but one of just many that I deal with.
One day I got a call from my school which, given my academic record, seemed like it would be anything but good news. As I stared at the caller i.d. and let the panic sink in I recalled advice my high school driver’s ed teacher gave me: “with regards to school sometimes no news is good news.” What was I thinking? I was quoting my high school driver’s ed teacher, someone I swore would never have any influence over met whatsoever. I was in such a state of suspended terror that when I picked up the phone I bobbled it. I began to think of what would happen if I dropped the phone. Would the phone break? Would it stop the call from coming through? I began thinking that if the answer to either of those questions was “yes,” then perhaps I should let it drop. But I somehow maintained control of the phone and with my heart beating at a rate typically reserved for heart attack victims I said: “hello.”
The confusion began when the man on the other end of the line asked me who he was speaking to. I didn’t really have an answer for him. After all, who calls someone and then asks the person they called who they are talking to? I informed the gentlemen of my name and the confusion continued.
“Can I talk to your parents?” He asked. This was the sum of all fears. My worst case scenario was obviously staring me right in the face or at least on the other end of the phone call. He wanted to talk to my parents. What had I done? Then I began to think of the circumstances in which this particular phone call came about or more importantly, why he’d want to talk to my parents. At the age of 27, parental consent laws no longer applied, so why did he want to talk to my parents? He didn’t need their permission for anything and he couldn’t talk to them about any part of my academic record because I was over the age of 18. I was truly perplexed. When he informed me that he was from the alumni foundation my confusion was further confounded. My parents hadn’t gone to this school, why would the alumni foundation want to talk to someone who wasn’t an alumni?
“Why do you want to talk to my parents?” I asked. This seemed like a perfectly fair question, but the man on the other end of the line just repeated the fact that he was calling on behalf of the alumni foundation. He asked again to speak with my parents, but I declined.
“Why?” He asked.
“Because this is weird,” I answered. That probably wasn’t the answer he thought he was going to get, in fact I’m nearly certain that this was the case.
“You’re not going to let me talk to your parents?” He asked.
“No,” I repeated.
“Okay,” he said in a surprised tone and the conversation ended there. But my thoughts about the conversation did not end there.
“That must have sounded really weird to him,” I thought. “He will undoubtedly repeat this conversation to someone, what should I do?”
Why I couldn’t let the awkward phone call go is just one in a plethora of things that make me the neurotic person that I am. I think about things that happened in the past and replay how I could have made the situation better. Why? I try to perfect things as much as possible even if the chance for me to correct it has long since passed. It’s not a trait I would wish upon anyone else for you live your life thinking “what if?” more than you ask “what could be?” It’s better to live fighting for a better tomorrow than it is to live fighting for a better yesterday. You can’t change the past, but you can change the future.