Are Introverts Allergic to Phones?


Drawing by EWagele

They say phone calls are becoming rare.

I think they’re right. My phone rings less often than it used to.

That’s fine with me… I prefer to write e-mails.

Being an introvert, it takes me some time to compose myself before composing a verbal thought. On the telephone, there is no time. Responses have to be instantaneous. With e-mail, you have all the time in the world to ponder. And to edit the perfect comment or response.

So I love to write e-mails.

The control! The relaxation!

No talking back.

No need to think fast.

You can even take a vacation in the middle of it.

My husband’s an introvert, too. The only drawback to our courtship was our phone calls. He’d call me up and say, “Hi Liz.” Period. That was it. I’d be happy to hear from him, but I’d make sure I’d thought of what to say when he would call that night and say, “Hi, Liz.”

I’m not a big talker. For some reason, it’s hard for me to initiate conversations. My head goes blank. If I’m feeling very relaxed I can jabber away, but initiate a conversation with a stranger? Forget it. Start talking to a stranger at a cocktail party? No way. I don’t want to intrude, plus I couldn’t think of a thing to say even if I were obnoxious enough to bother all those people who are always having those intimate conversations and don’t want anyone to annoy them. At least so I think.

Back to phones.

We used to have a party line, where two or more households share the same phone connection. We knew that the people on our line lived about three doors down the street. They could listen to our conversations and we to theirs. Can you imagine that? That was a long time ago. A long time before the Internet and cell phones. It was awful, especially when you had to wait for them to finish the most boring conversation the world has ever known to make your own important call.

Until I was ten, my phone number was 31832. That’s it. Easy. Then it was Landscape 6-0252. Other kids had prefixes like Thornwall. Then they did away with the words and substituted more numbers, so my phone number became 526-0252 and everybody in my neighborhood’s number started with 526. Now you see all kinds of prefixes on the same block and lots of people just use cell phones. What’s coming next? When I was a kid I wished we could communicate by smoke signals. It didn’t occur to me how public they’d be or that I’d care.

My aunt used to phone my mother too often and talk too long. Once my mother became exasperated and told her, after hearing every detail of my aunt’s dinner preparations that day, “I smell your ham burning.” My aunt said, “Oh really?” and quickly slammed down the phone to attend to the emergency.

Sometimes old ways are the best ways.