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
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.
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.
They don’t. It seems they just don’t have the problem. Magic ↩︎
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 ↩︎
Published in Notes and tagged rants • self organization