personal,  The 36 Questions

36 Questions: The Third Question


Today’s question is strangely intimate.

I feel like there’s something about it that gives you an embarassingly personal insight into my life. Then again, I think I’ve probably covered that in previous posts, and honestly there are posts coming up with far, far more intimate information, so I suppose this is really just tiny training wheels for the future.

Also, if you haven’t realised I’m a bit weird by now, there’s probably no hope for you. You need to work on your cray-dar.

You know, like gaydar, but for crazy people.

Yes I just made that up. You can use it. Don’t credit me.


Now we get into it.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say?Why?


First of all, can we all agree that in this day and age, phone calls are unnecessary. Unless you are having a crisis, or need to tell me something that cannot be trusted in writing, or I know you almost as well as I know myself, there is absolutely no need for you to call me. That’s what Whatsapp is for. Or Twitter. Or Snapchat. Communicate with me in a way that gives me time to go over my reply please. I’m in the Slow Learner group and apparently I still haven’t mastered the art of french braids (STILL!) or telephonic communication.

Secondly, I would just like to state for the record that phone calls make me deeply uncomfortable.

Not all phone calls, obviously. When I need to call Scrubs to remind him to pick up two litres of milk because I’ve guzzled the entire household supply overnight, I don’t even think twice about it. When I call my friend to catch up on life, I don’t feel anxiety. I’m fine with friends and family. I know their voices. I understand their intonations and their pauses and the words unspoken behind the words that are said aloud.


“Official” calls – anything even slightly professional – is a different matter entirely. If I have to call a stranger or a business, I will rehearse what I’m going to say because I suddenly develop the most ridiculously irrational fears.

Hypothetical 1: The other person answers the phone and I involuntarily vomit out random noises instead of words. Just… a string of consonants and vowels with no meaning. It just spews out of me and I have no control at all over what I’m saying.

…After a brief pause, the person on the other side of the phone says, “Excuse me?” and I hang up in a cold sweat.

Not ideal.

Hypothetical 2: The other person answers the phone and I start my sentence, only to completely forget what I wanted to say. Half a sentence hangs awkwardly in the air like a deflating balloon while I frantically struggle to remember where I was going with this now meandering disaster of a phrase.


…The person on the other end of the phone eventually assumes I’m having technical difficulties rather than just moronic social ones and hangs up, shrugging to themselves.

Also, not ideal.

So yes, to avoid either of these nightmare scenarios, I rehearse what I’m going to say. I don’t rehearse it word by word, sentence by sentence – I’m not that anal – but I roughly sketch out what it is I need from the call, and how I’m going to start the conversation.

As if that will somehow vaccinate me from the risk of stumbling over syllables.


As the phone rings, I feel butterflies. Not the nice kind of butterflies that are a little addictive, but the horrible, biting kind of butterflies that flutter around in your stomach with tiny butterfly petrol bombs, gleefully lobbing them at your stomach lining like insect arsonists. Then, in my mind, a spider diagram erupts with all the possible conversational catastrophes that might happen during the call, and I scramble to cover every possible base before the other person picks up the phone.

And then there’s that tell-tale click, and the other person intones their robotic greeting that always ends with, “How can I help you?,” and it’s as if there’s a tiny man in the wings with a clipboard who has been counting down from five, and now he just yells “GO! GO! GO!” and I stutter to life, and trot out my own rehearsed line to get the call going.




  • bexoxo

    I have written down many a script for phone calls. It’s gotten easier with age (and practice), but it’s still not my favorite. I’d much prefer an email.

  • The Real Reality Show Blog

    Hmmm. Very interesting. I can’t say that I’ve ever rehearsed a phone call. Not that I can recall at least. I might have run through my head what I wanted to say but that’s not any different than deciding why I was making the call to begin with. On the other hand, I can’t make any sort of post, or even a simple text, without agonizing over word choice, perceived changes in intent based on punctuation, inclusion of and then selection of emoticin, emoji, or other graphic representation. And then of course there is the proofreading and subsequent editing. Thus my lengthy comments, delayed replies, and, in my opinion, healthy resentment of a 40 character limit. I’m guessing it’s a generational thing.

    • Quinn

      Hahaha we are opposites! I just sit and write and it just pours out in a torrent of letters and punctutation. I am terrible at talking though. I start sentences that go nowhere, I begin stories and then add about seven unnecessary sidenotes until the person I’m talking to is more lost than I would be if I were suddenly dropped in the middle of the Amazon….

      It’s terrible!

  • Lost Astronomer

    Oh, you think that’s bad?

    Scene: 3am, on a night shift, under pressure and stress. An important phonecall need to be made to a friend at work – let’s call him Jim. A pbonecall is the only way of getting in touch, and I’ve been playing Wolf of Wall St with three different phone lines all night. Meanwhile, about seventeen different crises are vying for my attention.

    I dial, and someone who isn’t Jim answers. I speak, and the following fatal words spill out:

    “Hello, may I speak to the Lost Astronomer please?”

    Oh, fuck.

    Fuck fuck fuck. Fuck fuckity fuck.

    I just asked if I could speak to myself.
    Fortunately, quick as a flash I realise that Jim’s work colleague doesn’t actually know me, nor my name. There’s a puzzled voice at the other end.

    “I’m sorry, I don’t think anyone by that name works here.”
    “No? Okay… May I speak to Jim then, perhaps?” I inwardly whoop with joy. I might just get away with it.
    “Ah, Jim. Yes, of course, he’s here, I’ll just go get him. May I ask who’s calling?”
    “Certainly, my name is Lost Astronomer.”

    A long silence. An excruciating, embarrassingly long silence. Eventually, Jim answers. Hopefully, my previous quick conversation hasn’t been passed on. I hope. I hope in vain. Jim, laughing, comes on the line.

    “Hey, Astro. Did you just ask for yourself on the phone…?”

    Six years later, and he’s still not let me forget it…

    • Quinn

      Hahaha! I was once hired as a temp in a bank and I was sitting there daydreaming about food when the phone rang. I answered and in my most professional voice said, “Hello, this is McDonalds how can I help you?”

      The guy on the other end barely skipped a beat. He replied, “Oh I’ll have two cheeseburgers and a large fries please. Didn’t realise the bank had started doing McDonalds deliveries!” and then laughed like a lunatic for about ten minutes at his own joke.

      It was pretty embarrassing.

    • Quinn

      Haha! 😉

      I’d love to get over it, but for now I’ll just continue googling any unknown numbers that pop up on my screen….

  • Becca Barracuda

    I am the same way! But it’s not that I’m afraid of what I’m going to say or happen; it just seems to be some sort of irrational anxiety. For example, I started a new job about three weeks ago, and we’ve had to keep badgering IT to get an issue with my laptop resolved. I had to call an IT guy a bunch of times over the course of the week– the same one, mind you– but my stomach started doing flip-flops every single time the phone started ringing through. Made no sense, though– I’d spoken to the guy a bunch of times, I was valid in my reasoning for calling, and I knew what I needed to say. Nevertheless, my stomach was in knots, even thinking about it. (In case you’re wondering, my IT issue did eventually get solved!)

    • Quinn

      YES! This is it! Irrational anxiety. Although sometimes my mouth runs away with me and just… BLERP comes out. Just half-sentences and nonsense. Then I have to remind myself to stop talking and take a breath. It’s awful.

      Most of the time though it’s just irrational nerves about calling someone. So silly!

  • N

    hahaha… I know what you mean, there are people I can talk to for hours on phone but to only those people.
    everyone else… please text, mail whatever, don’t call me because I won’t answer and It will be rude and then I wouldn’t know what excuse to give you over text so might not text and while I like you as much as a person likes a person things are awkward now. :/

  • Paul

    Oh man, I was getting anxious just reading this. “Official” calls are the worst. If I call someone and they say “hello”, I say “hello” right back, and then they say “hello” again. Never fails. So after 3 seconds I already feel like an idiot.

  • Bia

    Hahaha! Your nightmare scenarios are exactly the same as mine. I need to have a great deal of self-control to not just start rumbling random noises in every call I need to make(noises that are probably my soul suffering)

  • Ashling

    I rehearse in my head too. It’s a way of organising my thoughts so i don’t confuse the person at the other end. I guess i also don’t like the way our phones have taken over our lives too. I used often forget to pick up my phone when visiting friends and family and be without it for a few days and it never bothered me. If something was urgent people had other ways to contact me. To this day i often have it on silent which drives my family nuts. But i prefer this as there is something so disturbing about a ringing phone that most people let it take precedence over the people they are talking to in person.

    • Quinn

      Yes a ringing phone grates on my nerves as much as an alarm snoozed five times in ten minutes. I also leave my phone on silent most of the time!

  • Joanna Maguire

    Heck I even mentally rehearse if I need to speak to someone I know on the phone. Not that I often do, all my family and friends know that I am seriously unlikely to ever call or pick up the phone. Praise be to the gods of messenger and texts.

  • weddingsfromtheheartblog

    Depending on the purpose of the call, I have written out not so much a “script” but a list of the points I need to ask/talk about (so I won’t have to make the embarrassing call back because I forgot to mention something). Email is preferable as it’s easier for a list of questions or detailed information.

  • Angela

    Just catching up on your posts I’ve skimmed them if I had a spare minute but not had time until tonight to actually properly read… Apologies if you have 20 notifications from me!
    One of the girls in my office today randomly started asking us questions and when she read the first three I thought ‘I know these questions from somewhere..’ haha! I’m excited for the rest of your answers now!

    I hate calling people on the phone either exception of my sisters, parents and Kevin, I don’t even call my friends anymore and sometimes if they call I’ll let it ring out then text saying sorry I was in the bath or something… I know weird!

    At work I hate it and usually do go over in my head what I’m going to say but it usually still comes out wrong so if possible I just email whoever I need to speak to! Am I anti-social?

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