As I will be on an island somewhere in the blue Aegean Sea for the next couple of weeks, I am scheduling a couple of re-runs to fill the gap. The following post was first published on 9th September 2010.
This post is inspired by what I now see as selfish behaviour on my part. Yesterday, the telephone didn’t stop ringing. As well as calls from family, there were many from British Gas, BT and a variety of sales people not to mention those irritating automated calls that begin by telling you it is an important public announcement (it never is).
Having spent most of the day answering the phone and part of the evening, I began to think Alexander Graham Bell was perhaps my least favourite person. I even stated on ‘linked-in’ this morning that I was ‘out’ to callers.
How wrong could I be?
Where would I be without this means of communication? In fact, I am now thinking that I should use it more often instead of complaining about its incessant ringing.
I have only one excuse and that is that I find it very hard to hear people on the phone. Not all people you understand but the majority. Just the first few words usually sound like gibberish to me. Friends and family tend to realise this and try not to say anything important when I first pick up the phone. I can hear perfectly after a few moments. Sounds odd? Well, I am odd. When I leave the phone I often experience the same phenomenon when someone speaks in the same room as me. I gape at them as their mouths open and shut but I don’t hear what they say. Yes, I had my ears checked and no, they didn’t find anything wrong.
Yes, some day I will get a second opinion.
This problem of missing the first few words of a conversation is not good when dealing with cold callers of course. My family tease me as I plead,
“I’m sorry, who did you say you are? Where are you calling from? I’m so sorry, I can’t understand a word you are saying,” Normally, the person on the other end does not break to breathe let alone explain anything. They are reading their set script and hurtle on before I get time to grasp any of it. To these callers, trying to earn a crust, I apologise but I must hang up.
The other kind of caller is the ‘old friend/relative of my husband’. I recognise the tone of the voice. I recognise the inflection but the words? Swahili?? I guess. Sometimes I am correct. Sometimes I am wildly wrong. No one seems to mind.
At some point, the conversation starts to make sense. Sometimes I think I have been speaking to one person and it is only midway through the conversation that their identity becomes clear. This happens when my daughters phone me. To be fair, they all sound much the same. My youngest phoned me to tell me she was expecting without first saying her name and I had to check which daughter she was. Yes, seriously. Well, so would you I am sure!
Having said that, when my eldest son was young, before his volice broke, he had a very ‘girlie’ voice. So ‘girlie’, that when he dialled the fire brigade aged six, (long story, he was going to see a fire station the following day with his Beaver group and must have decided to dial 999 and see what happened) the operator assumed he was a girl. She was of course, extremely unimpressed. She blocked the phone line so that when I returned to the house (bad mother had been across to the shops and left eldest daughter in charge)I picked up the receiver and was astounded to be berated by the lady on the other end because she said my daughter had rung for the fire brigade and she had informed the police. My 13 year old ‘babysitter’ knew nothing about it.
The police arrived in due course and wanted to speak to ‘my daughter’. My younger two daughters were in the house by then but both denied the offence emphatically and of course, I believed them.
“I think it must have been my son,” I told them. The police woman shook her head.
“Definitely a girl’s voice,” she said firmly,
“Can we just have a word with your daughter please? It’s usually all that’s needed to make sure she doesn’t do it again.” I was horrified. My reliable, slightly ‘Goth’ looking daughter who had an after school job and enjoyed doing a bit of charity work? No!
“My son has a very girlie voice, he’s only six.” I told them. They were not convinced.
I tried to find my son but he had vanished as children do when they have done something wrong. (Bad mother let her children play out in the cul-de-sac where we lived). My daughter spoke to the police of course but could tell them nothing and their gentle lecture did not go down well.
I found my son a little later. He denied everything.
It took him six months to confess. We were out walking one day and walked right past the fire station.
“Is it very bad to phone the fire brigade if there isn’t a fire?” he asked.
“Yes, it is,” I replied. I did explain why, but you don’t need to hear that, you know why!
“Did you phone them that time then?” I asked.
“Yes, but I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be naughty. I just wanted to see what would happen,” he confessed.
His voice broke eventually, thankfully. Now he can take responsibility for his own actions!
So, back to the phone and what has changed my mind about it.
This morning, having said I was ‘out’ to callers, I bumped into an old friend who lives about two miles down the road. I haven’t seen her for about ten years. We had a lot of catching up to do, happy news, sad news…the lot. Our youngest sons were friends when small so I suppose that’s the time when we saw each other the most. When the boys grew and went their separate ways, we did too. Work replaced those coffee mornings and the friendly chats we’d swapped in the school playground.
It made me think though. The odd phone call would have been a good idea. In fact I had one from another friend who I haven’t seen for a year or more, only recently.
It made my day!
So, I have ditched the selfish attitude and if you can bear with me as I struggle to hear the very first thing you say, I am definitely ‘in to callers’ today and every day from now on. I may even make a few of my own.
* “I heard that – pardon?” : An oft repeated quote in our house, taken from the BBC comedy series “I didn’t Know you Cared” aired in the 70’s by Peter Tinniswood and loosely based on his books.