I'm one of those people who actually had a life before the advent of the telephone answering machine, later known as voice-mail.
I've always hated telephones, or perhaps my hatred is for the person who uses a telephone to call me.
I find phones intrusive, noisy and annoying in every possible way. Because of that, I stand slack-jawed watching those who voluntarily condemn themselves to going through their waking hours with only one working arm; the other effectively glued to the side of their head.
A couple weeks ago I was standing outside a store, waiting for my wife to finish purchasing essential products (ya right). A woman with one hand stuck to the side of her head was telling someone, “I'm just going into WalMart.” Fifteen minutes later, the same woman passes by, her hand still stuck to the side of her head saying, “I'm just leaving WalMart.” True story!
I remember the first time I was confronted with just how much I dislike this type of communication. Another counsellor who worked at the same agency as me told me he'd just purchased an answering machine during his lunch break. My immediate response was, “An answering machine!”
“Ya,” he said. “So I can get messages from people who call me when I'm not home.”
“Good grief man. Why would you do that?” I cried with alarm in my voice. “I don't want to know who's called me and I certainly don't want to call them back.”
The look on his face went beyond shocked. It transmitted the thought, “One of us is insane and I don't think it's me.”
My hatred for phone-calls got to the point that if the phone rang in our house and someone else wasn't there to answer it, the phone didn't get answered. This was a little inconvenient since I have suicidal clients who I've told to “Call me any time if you need help.”
So, how have I moved beyond hatred?
All I have to do is compare what it's like to talk to someone on one of those devices to a regular phone and it's not so bad simply listening to someone talk at me. You see, on a regular phone I can actually pretend to be listening while typing a blog post or going to the bathroom or picking my teeth with a folded piece of paper. I can talk on a regular phone long enough to find a reason to pass the infernal contraption to my wife or one of the kids.
When you think about it that way, a phone call now and then is less horrible.