You know how lots of voicemail systems allow you to play back your message, so you can hear every little "um," "like," and "you know"? Yeah. I had to learn to Just Freaking Hang Up unless it's a total flameout situation, like if I had to clear my throat while giving my phone number (or gave the home instead of the cell, or entirely forgot to give one at all).
I'm supposed to check in with my therapist on weekdays by leaving him a message, and his voicemail cuts you off at three minutes. There was one day I filled it all the way up twice, erasing it twice, before realizing: it's my therapist, he's already well aware I'm crazy, and he'll deal. And then I filled it up a final time, and hung up when I was done.
The last time I had a real job, I was constantly having to genuflect and supplicate to people on the phone, because I needed information they had, a client was entitled to something it was their job to provide, or because I needed guidance from my boss, who worked in a different city.
I am horrible at the phone, even on my best day. I am unsure of myself, my high voice makes me sound like a five year-old, I stammer and trip over my own tongue, and if I catch the slightest hint of "no" in someone's tone, I get thrown off and discouraged. This is a sad combination of factors anyway, but it is fatal if your job success hinges on your ability to phone a complete stranger, explain a sad situation, and persuade the stranger to do something about it. If your target ass-hauler perceives, via super-sensitive ass-hauler antennae, the slightest possibility that no ass must be hauled, no comfortable thumb disturbed, if only you can be eased or forced off the phone, that is precisely the outcome you can expect. In other words: To get anyone to haul ass, you have to make it abundantly clear that you will not hang up unless or until you get what you need.
I was an utter failure at getting anyone to haul ass, and I developed a huge complex about making phone calls. Eventually, unless I was ordering pizza, I couldn't dial the phone without making out a list of exactly what information I needed, doodling a checkbox next to each point. I would spend half an hour formulating these lists in what I thought was the most logical order, to make for the most efficient call possible, preparing for every conceivable question, with rebuttals for every possible "no." I would work myself into such a lather worrying about each call that it would take three tries to dial the damn phone. And of course the conversation never went like I wanted it to anyway.
My Boss's in-box was Where Email Goes to Die, I learned too late, and there was nothing I could do about it. I would spend hours carefully composing emails, designed to be answerable merely by typing a "Y" or "N," and couldn't even get those answered. Important concerns would sit until they could wait no longer, and I'd frantically place a call to Boss, who'd dispense whatever wisdom I needed to hear, usually in reproachful, calm-down tones. I got the distinct impression I was being a bother every time I called. I began to dread calling Boss more than calling strangers. I would hurry, hurry, hurry to get off the phone as quickly as possible without pissing Boss off, hang up, sigh with relief, and then realize I'd forgotten something essential from my list. Necessitating another call. Crap. I said "Crap!" so often in that job it became my signature catchphrase.
Maybe I should go straight to letters or faxes and leave the phone to those able to speak in short sentences. I am amazingly talented at leaving the type of message that no one wants to return. When I call attorneys trying to network, they don't call me back, and I'm too chicken to call them again. Not only did I suck at advocating for other people, I can't even do it for myself.
Here's another example. I last saw my primary-care doctor in early September. He wrote me a prescription for Retin-A after I pointed out the dark spots on my face from the huge cysts I got while I was studying. I waited about a week, until I needed refills on other things, and then I dropped off the slip at my pharmacy. When I got home from running errands, the pharmacy had already left a message: under our insurance, I needed prior authorization to get my skin goop. They'd already faxed a form to my doctor's office but I should call to make sure it got there.
So I call the doctor's office and everything sounds fine. They promise to call me once the form is signed and sent off wherever it needs to go. So I wait. I put myself through major stress worrying about ever getting a job, and my face explodes like it hasn't done since before the exam. I wonder if the problem is that I saw the doc on a good skin day. I pick at everything. I get huge, dark scabs, one smack in the middle of my nose. I cry when I see myself in the bathroom mirror. I call the doctor's office again. And again. And again.
More than a month after I submitted the prescription for the gorram skin goop, I call the doctor's office for the fifth time. The nice lady (they're always pleasant and patient with me) says they've just received the paperwork from InsCo, and they'll fax it to the pharmacy once my doc signs it, and they'll call me when all this is accomplished. Yay. I hang up.
Wait a minute. What about the paperwork the pharmacy originally faxed over? Like, weeks ago, back when I originally tried to fill the prescription? Did it never get there at all? Was that not the right paperwork? I don't know. If I needed this medication to breathe or something, I'd be in serious trouble.
I called the pharmacy to find out how much it would cost out-of-pocket just to be done with it already, and it turns out I'll save about $35 if I wait for the paperwork to go through. So I am stuck. I'm 31 years old, I suck at the phone, and I still have giant, honking acne.