Why I Hate Phone Calls

I have a very long-standing and very passionate hate-hate relationship with unscheduled1 phone calls. I dislike doing them and I am dismayed to receive them. Every time I get one, I am reminded of how I don’t know how this world operates.

I never figured a good time to receive a call without wanting to smash the phone and I have no idea how other people handle it2. All calls inevitably catch me in one of those moments:

  • I am asleep since you don’t know what time zone I am in or I am waking up and you force me to focus on you as the first thing in the morning
  • I am reading in transit and I begin the phone call with unfinished thought hanging in my brain
  • I am in a meeting or phone call with someone else and you are forcing me to be a corporate architect3
  • I am focused on my work and your five minutes just destroyed my hour
  • I am focused on being with my friends or family and you somehow think this is more important
  • I am tired and unable to focus

I have small pockets of minutes between those states and nobody hits them ever. Otherwise, you are forcing me to do an immediate context switch with a cost. I’ll bite.

For brevity and omission of curse words, I do not even talk about the 3 AM calls that offer me saving $10 in the next year if I switch to a different plan. True story.

When to call

I have a phone for reasons. Call me when:

  • Someone I know died or is dying
  • I am immediately needed for emergency assistance
  • I’ve asked you to call me when you don’t hear from me in a month after I left for a through-hike
  • No, what you have in mind doesn’t qualify

Schedule

All of the problems are alleviated when agreeing on a time to call in advance. This allows everyone to adjust what they are doing, batch calls if possible, and have shared expectations about a time limit.

For some reason, this is understood in a business context, but rarely outside of it. I am paying extra for services that can prioritize email over the phone, yet it seems to be impossible for some.

Two Numbers

I originally solved this problem by having the phone off and only calling back. This is a dick move, but over a certain volume of calls, I saw no other solution. And it creates problems with availability for emergencies.

My interim solution is to have a rotating throwaway number and a private number. It is an improvement, but it's not working perfectly. Inevitably I need to be reliably reachable for a short period and that screws the system.

Calling other people

All of this causes me real anxieties when calling other people. I don't know what they are doing and I hate to interrupt with a non-emergency request.

It took me a while to realize how other people operate differently. I still don't know why all artisans prefer the game of back-and-forth call attempts, but I've learned to deal with it. I still do that in batches and treat myself for something nice afterward.

Beep beep beep

Some of my friends hate me for this habit, but I just don't know how to operate otherwise. The phone is a request for immediate priority and that doesn't work well beyond a very small number of very disciplined people.

DND mode is the best invention since sliced bread.

Write me an email or SMS. I’ll be back.


  1. I originally skipped this word and then realized phone calls were my job ↩︎

  2. They don’t. It seems they just don’t have the problem. Magic ↩︎

  3. I am saying this in awe and respect to the corporate architects I’ve met. It was the first time I saw someone being on three conference calls at one, being able to talk in them while also responding to me physically when I walked into their office. I wondered whether the genetic mutation that allows for that is hereditary on inserted upon joining…and then I learned some of them are ex-ATC officers ↩︎

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