I often wondered if faithful lab assistant Thomas A. Watson rolled his eyes and pretended not to hear when Alexander Graham Bell's voice crackled over his new invention, ordering: "Mr. Watson – Come here – I want you," "What!?!," I imagine Mr. Watson bellyaching while throwing his hands in the air and stomping his feet. I can picture him groaning at being interrupted — unnecessarily — by his boss Bell for some stupid task that Bell could no doubt perform for himself.
When I was young, my dad would get furious when the phone rang in our house. Not just during mealtime or TV watching time or sleeping time but anytime. Granted my dad would get annoyed by a lot of things (snow, rain, Democrats, minorities on television, minorities not on television, Philadelphia sports teams, teams opposing Philadelphia sports teams), but a ringing telephone would set him off every time without fail. Midway through the first RRRIIIING!, my father would growl, "Who the hell is calling?" Even if he was expecting a call, my dad would greet that initial telephone ring with the same contempt. If it was one of my friends or one of my brother's, my dad would mockingly mutter the friend's name under his breath for the duration of our conversation. I sometimes wondered why we even had a telephone. Why was my father paying a monthly fee to have this constant source of irritation in his house?
Something in my father's make-up must have rubbed off on me. While I don't get annoyed when the phone rings in our house (well, not nearly as annoyed as he did), I will admit, I do hate talking on the phone. I can't quite put my finger on what it is about talking on the telephone I don't like... but I don't like it. I can make it through a few informative seconds on the phone, like a call from my wife if I ran to the supermarket and she realized that eggs were not included on the shopping list. But, if the conversation extends past the instruction to get eggs, I bristle. "We can talk when I get home," I'll gently explain, trying to put an end to a lengthy discussion yet not wanting to appear rude — but usually failing miserably in the process.
I rarely — if ever — answer the phone in my house. It's never for me. If I do answer, it will most likely be someone who wants to speak to Mrs. Pincus. Or it'll be a solicitor with a brief survey that usually ends when question number three is: "Does anyone it your family work for a radio station?' and I answer "yes." Or it's some malicious scammer telling me that they have been receiving messages from my Windows computer. Or it's just a plain old wrong number. But, I can be assured that it's not for me.
So, wouldn't you know.... I started a new job earlier this year that requires me to speak on the phone more than all of my previous jobs put together. It's very strange, but over the last few months I've gotten used to it. Some of my new co-workers have even complemented me on my phone manner, citing me as both professional and pleasant. I have even surprised myself with my patience and courtesy. Some of the folks I speak to on the phone are decidedly harried, curt, unreasonable and downright rude. But I have uncharacteristically maintained a cool head and affable demeanor. I never knew I had it in me. I still don't like talking on the phone, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
Now, you'll have to excuse me. The phone is ringing..... and I'm not gonna answer it.