Humanity really loves telephones. We’ve had them for a hundred and thirty years, and for the last couple of decades we’ve been carrying them around with us at all times. At least two people I work with daily keep their phones clipped to their heads, and people don’t even think that’s weird anymore.
So, with this vast cultural store of phone knowledge and a lifetime of personal experience, how can I still be so bad at it?
One of the reasons I’ve been blogging less regularly of late is a messy business situation that is taking up a lot of my time and requiring a lot of important-sounding phone calls. That’s how I discovered the danger of Sudden Aphorism Syndrome.
With email, you can spend a few minutes to formulate a thoughtful reply. You can also ignore messages for days until the sender confronts you in person, and then you can lie about internet connectivity problems. On the phone, meanwhile, you keep having to think of another thing to say RIGHT NOW.
When I’m pressed for meaningful statements without any prep time, some ancestral storage facility in my brain takes over and I start to spout down-home wisdom like an old-timey farmhand.
On the other end of the situationally-inappropriate-word-usage spectrum, I have now caught myself saying “pursuant to” over the phone in three separate conversations with people I know in real life.
Even without someone asking questions on the other end, the danger doesn’t stop. My second-greatest telephone enemy, after myself, is voicemail.
At work I leave a large number of phone messages, primarily of the “please send money” variety. These usually sound confidently professional right up until the last ten seconds, when my mouth has words left over after my brain has run out of information.
The wonderful thing about this medium is its permanence. Unlike the aforementioned conversation, recipients can replay messages to their hearts’ delight.
P. S. In case you finally got this out of your head.
EDIT: Yeah, so I did not watch the official video of that song before posting it. This is a different one with a lot less of...everything, really...