RSS Feed

Phone Calls

One of the things I dreaded most about going to school to become a social worker, were all of the logistical details I would have to deal with: looking for resources, making phone calls, filling out forms, and doing general paperwork. I’ve never been good at those things. When I get a letter in the mail, I get nervous; even if it’s a regular bank statement, or a credit card offer, I worry. And when I have to make a phone call or look at bills, I want to hide under the bed, but Cricket is already there and she growls at me for invading her space.

001

“This hiding spot is taken.”

This year, I’ve had to do a lot of paperwork and phone calls for clients at my internship. At first I wanted to hide under the desk – which was wide open because Cricket is not allowed to come to work with me – but I didn’t want to let people down, so I made the phone calls and helped with the paperwork. After a while, probably months, these behaviors started to seep into my real life. I didn’t try to make deals with my Mom anymore, like, I’ll clean the whole apartment and scrub the bathtub with a toothbrush, if you will just call this doctor’s office for me and find out why they sent me a bill for fourteen dollars.

There was a time, not all that long ago, when I refused to even have a telephone in my bedroom, for fear I might accidentally answer it, and end up having to talk to an actual person. Caller ID has reduced some of my anxiety. I get at least a few seconds to prepare before picking up the phone, instead of feeling like I’m playing Russian Roulette each time the phone rings.

butterfy-with-hair-stand-up

“I don’t think you should answer the phone, like, ever.”

I still hate making phone calls, don’t get me wrong. I worry that every word I say on the phone, and every word I write on an official form, will make the world blow up, or get me sent to jail; but now I take the risk and do it anyway, fingers crossed.

Butterfly tries to help me with my paperwork phobia by offering to chew any difficult letters I might receive. I have to make a point of not giving in to that pleading look in her eyes – Oh, that paper looks so tasty, and I’m sure you don’t really want to answer that Jury Duty summons, Mommy. She’s never offered to make a phone call for me though. Cricket, on the other hand, would love to be the one to call an insurance company and dispute a charge. If I would just dial the number for her, place the phone on the floor, and step back, she could handle everything. Though I might end up with lawyer letters next, and those, I’m sure, would make Butterfly’s eyes explode. Oh my God, is that a MANILA envelope?

008

“You wanted me to eat these papers, right?”

014

“I can make phone calls?!”

            I’ve always been braver fighting for other people than for myself. I feel like I’m on more solid ground with altruism (which explains my choice of second career). My hope, though, is that all of this fighting for other people, and reminding them that they matter and deserve the help, will eventually sink in to my very stubborn brain. Maybe if I wore my work clothes at home when I made phone calls for myself, some of that work bravery would rub off on my home-self. But Cricket is skeptical. Work clothes are a very bad sign in her world.

030

“Where are you going, and how will I survive?”

Advertisements

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

87 responses »

  1. Rachel, I admire how honest you are — and perceptive on many different levels — including dog psychoanalysis! Glad your internship is providing you additional insight — that’s what it is intended to do!

    Reply
  2. My dog is too big to hide under a bed. When she gets nervous, she either tries to barge into a bedroom, hide in the bathroom or behind a living room chair, or sit on my lap. And my dog is a lot of dog to fit on one lap. It also doesn’t help when she tries to lean ALL 65 pounds of her body on you.

    I’ve dealt with phone phobia, too. I still can’t bring myself to answer calls from unfamiliar numbers or make calls to people outside my family, but I am now able to call family members (usually my dad if he’s at work with his cell phone on him) without much thought.

    Reply
  3. Ditto on Lindy’s comment … hang in there, you have this!

    Sent from my Bell Samsung device over Canada’s largest network.

    Reply
  4. I can so picture Cricket growling at the phone to dispute a bill! “Oh, yes–that charge will be removed promptly Ms.Cricket. So sorry we did not catch our error.” She would be excellent.

    Reply
  5. “My hope, though, is that all of this fighting for other people, and reminding them that they matter and deserve the help, will eventually sink in to my very stubborn brain.”
    It will eventually .

    Reply
  6. I used to have phone phobia when it came to calling companies, agencies, etc. for information. I was afraid that I’d sound stupid. Then I did a stint as a resource and referral counselor for people seeking child care. I couldn’t believe the dumb questions people asked. It cured me.

    Reply
  7. I sold a business about 10 years ago. Before this there was an employee who mishandled a lot of important paperwork. For nearly 2 years after I got several letters from the IRS. I can’t tell you the utter joy when my accountant said I no longer had to retain those files. I think that anxiety helps us do things right. Unless we obsess, as I nearly did.

    Reply
  8. OMG – a MANILA envelope is the WORST!!
    I share your dislike for the phone – and I agree the most important invention since Bell’s original discovery is Caller ID. Priceless.

    Reply
  9. According to everybody on Planet Earth, I am the easiest person with whom anyone might wish to talk. It’s true that I like to listen to people. Thing is, I also LOATHE talking on the phone and double loathe cold calling of any type. What’s that all about?

    Reply
  10. Awww…Such a cute dog you have!

    Reply
  11. A paper shreder! Mine will do the same thing if we are not careful. We give ours a napkin, a paper towel and a tissue each year for their birthday. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  12. Perhaps Butterfly could write the sequel to the book “The Dog Ate My Homework’ while Cricket could teach office management courses. You could retire on the royalties. 🙂

    Reply
  13. If they have cars that drive themselves for you, how come they don’t have phones to handle that stuff? Smart phones? NOT

    Reply
  14. I hate cold calling. Though it does get easier the more you do it…and I’ve found the people on the other end are generally nicer than expected.

    Reply
  15. Sounds like your internship is helping you make positive changes in your own life. 🙂

    Reply
  16. Reblogged this on Nothing Gilded, Nothing Gained-Period Drama on Paper at Middlemay Farm and commented:
    A fear I can really relate to: phone calls. Enjoy this post from one of my favorite bloggers today! Happy Sunday.

    Reply
  17. I’ve said it before, but your posts are some of my absolute favorites. This one really speaks to me. My father used to bribe us to call to order pizza. 🙂

    Reply
  18. Rachel, it is profound that you are more comfortable fighting for others than for yourself. It is that social worker empathy. My wife is like this as she is the best of listeners, but she attracts people who need an audience, so she has trouble getting a word in edgewise.

    Do find your voice for you. I tell me children when dealing with customer service reps, you need not be a jerk to advocate for yourself. Best wishes to you and Cricket. Keith

    Reply
  19. When I first went to work t 18, I had never used a phone and was terrified when it rang and it was my job to answer it.

    Reply
  20. Don’t feel too bad. I’m a former newspaper reporter, and I still hate making phone calls. It was especially horrible when I had to call people involved in a tragedy–like children being lost in a fire, or another who was murdered. Then I had to convince them I wasn’t being a vulture/reporter, but someone who cared. When I have to call over something personally unpleasant, like a bill or an online order, my stomach grinds until I finally do it–and then discover that it wasn’t such a bad experience. Unfortunately, my beagle has never offered to help.

    Reply
    • Butterfly and Cricket don’t really offer to help, they demand.

      Reply
    • Just curious…When you made those calls, did you have your recorder running, or were you just a really fast note-taker?

      I do freelance writing (including for a local paper) and have never had Journalism in school. I always use a recorder ’cause I write slower than I speak. (I’m a southerner…haha!)

      Reply
      • During all my active years as a reporter, I never used a recorder, so I learned my own sort of shortcuts. Now, I use one when I interview face-to-face–most of the time–and like that it helps with little details I might have missed. I still take notes, though, which is a good thing, because once I didn’t have the record button pushed! I have used the recorder for phone interviews, but I usually don’t.

        By the way, I like the name, thewritesteph. Pretty clever!

      • Thank you, Monica! I like playing around with words like that.

        Well, I also take notes, but I use the recorder, too. Thanks so much for posting. I hope we can be virtual friends. I can learn so much from someone like you!

  21. hairytoegardener

    Do you lend Butterfly out? I think she’d be better than a shredder, and there are certain bills I hate to deal with that I’d have her munch on…

    I used to not have a phobia of the phone, but I think as I’ve grown older I’ve developed one. I know 3 or 4 people who can easily talk for over an hour. I once made and baked an entire cake while talking on the phone because I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. However, when I think about these people’s need to talk because no one else will listen, I realize I serve a purpose. Perhaps this is one reason I don’t own a cell phone.

    This was a great post. Made me chuckle.

    Reply
    • Thank you! Unfortunately, Butterfly has very few teeth, so she needs to rest up between shredding sessions, or else I’d send her out on service calls on a regular basis.

      Reply
  22. Sofie thinks work clothes are absolutely a bad sign and starts to whine when the closet opens. Good that you have such dedicated helpers to get you through.

    Reply
  23. Your post and the many replies made me realize that fear of phones is much more widespread than I knew. After many, many years I have finally partially overcome my own anxiety. Writing is much less stress inducing. Your posts frequently give me prompts to think about things in my own life. Thank you.

    Reply
  24. “There was a time, not all that long ago, when I refused to even have a telephone in my bedroom, for fear I might accidentally answer it, and end up having to talk to an actual person” Can’t tell you how long I’ve felt the same. Made me laugh. You’re such a terrific and talented writer. Always a delight to read your posts! Thank you!

    Reply
  25. That photo with the tongue is too much! SO CUTE! My husband never wants to answer the phone or talk to anyone. He’s very introverted. I really enjoyed this post!

    Reply
  26. Thank you for this. I feel very similar about phone calls and avoiding communications is a sure sign my anxiety is ramping up from manageable to debilitating. I hardly ever answer my phone, if its important people can leave a message and I’ll ring them when I’ve psyched myself up! Xx

    Reply
  27. oh my …this resonates profoundly … my cats don’t chew things so I just pile letters up … and wait I for someone to leave a message on the answerphone so I can decide if it’s important or not … 🙂

    Reply
  28. Even though I have no fear of the phone now, I did when I was a lot younger as I invariably expected bad news. Your story brought that anxiety back to me. Well done you for working on overcoming it.

    Reply
  29. I struggle with this, too! Motherhood and, more recently, an ailing father have helped (again, that helping others bit), but at heart there’s a frisson of anxiety before every phone call. Rosie runs away at the sight of a phone, so she’s not much help!

    Reply
  30. I struggle with phone calls, too. I’ve gotten much better at it. I still write up a script if I don’t think I can do an off-the-cuff call, and I’ve done theater, but I’m not good at improve!!!

    Reply
  31. I hate phone calls with strangers too!

    Reply
  32. I am not a fan of making phone calls either. When I have to “discuss” something with someone. Sometimes I put it off. Then there comes the time when I have to do it. Then I get done and I think, “What was THAT (the anxiety and dread) about. That wasn’t so bad. In fact, it went well. Geez.” Glad I am not the only one that has that anxiety.

    Mail doesn’t bother me . . . well, now it does because it is not just ours it is my father’s bills, but normally mail is ok for me.

    I LOVE the idea of you wearing your work clothes when you have to make phone calls or open mail. It could be like your armor. Perhaps Cricket could learn the difference between you leaving for work (work clothes AND car keys) and you getting stuff done (stack of envelopes and/or phone in hand). With the latter, she might even learn to be there for moral support. 🙂

    Reply
    • I think Cricket would find it just as upsetting if I were home and not paying adequate attention to her. She already thinks it’s rude that I try to read books when she wants scratching, and the books have the scratch and bite marks to prove it.

      Reply
      • Oh, so it is not that you are leaving, it is when you stay home and you are not paying attention to her. — Well, for me . . . not sure if it is the same for you . . . but that makes my anxiety worse. It is bad enough that I have to do something I don’t like, but then I have a little one making me feel bad about it!

  33. I just don’t like people. Don’t like the phone either and will resort to text or email to avoid having to speak.

    Gotta ask…..you can’t scratch Cricket and read at the same time? Have you never learned to multi-task? My dog is a leaner…just needs the contact, but the cats require petting. I’ll have a book, a dog and a cat nearby and life is very good.

    Reply
    • Cricket believes in pushing books out of the way and stretching out across me so that I cannot do anything but focus on her. Multi-tasking is not on her list of approved activities.

      Reply
  34. Like you, I hate making phone calls. I don’t answer my phone unless it’s someone I know well. But Mr. C is worse than I am about making calls. He either refuses to do it or ends up hollering and often cursing at the person on the other end. So I have to do it. I use the honey vs. vinegar approach but if I don’t get what I expect I can turn on a dime and growl as well as Cricket. I won’t eat the bills like Butterfly but it would certainly be fun!

    Reply
  35. I completely understand the anxiety of associating with people! I work in an entire room by myself that has secure access and it is glorious. And while I don’t understand the exact anxiety you go through I understand the concept of struggling to get those behaviors under control. Thanks for being brave and opening up! I hope that practice makes for improvement, which is much more realistic than wanting to be perfect!

    Reply
  36. I am comforted to read that I am not the only one who hides from the phone!

    Reply
  37. Haha…can totally relate to this! I hate making and taking phone calls too! Ugh. Sometimes life and your job force you to do it, but nobody says you have to like it. At least with your social work career you know that phone calls are an important part of helping people.

    Reply
  38. As a youngster (and into my 20s) I used to hate using the phone. I used to put off and put off ringing. I also used to write down what I was going to say to people and read it whilst on the phone in order to avoid waffling!! I found over the years that the more I phoned peeps, the easier it became. Now in my 50s I realise that it doesn’t matter if I make a botch up of things or for that matter what other people think. I just wish I could have told my younger self that !!!
    I love your humour whilst talking honestly about your fears. The thought of canine intervention sounds perfect. Perhaps you are onto something there!! A new business venture – ha ha!! If only !! 🙂

    Reply
  39. I love your doggy conversations. They make me smile.

    Reply
  40. I didn’t realize you were in social work school! I got my MSW in 2001. It’s the best profession on the planet. There is a ton of paperwork and phone calls, though. But it’s worth it, I swear!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: