I have always had an uneasy relationship with the telephone. To paraphase the famous historiographical quip, this says more about me than it does the telephone. So what makes voice calls unpleasant for me?
First, I am socially awkward. Trying to understand social cues even under favorable conditions maxxes out my CPU, increases my anxiety, and literally makes me want to drink as a self-soothing behavior This is worse in one-on-one situations where I am expected to emit appropriate responses in real-time. In groups I can be in the background and chime in when I feel like it. I greatly prefer time-shifted interactions like text, email, forum, etc.
Part of this anxiety is that in my experience people who have wanted to manipulate / guilt / shame me have used speech to do that damage. They rarely do it in writing. Part of this, I think, is deniability – it’s hard to deny something that’s written down. Writing also probably denatures some of the constant flow of (subconscious?) micromanipulation, since writing slows us down and makes us reflect on what we are doing.
My voice processing doesn’t work very well. I think this is related to the anxiety discussed above. I think the maxxed-out thing causes me to drop incoming voice information. To be clear my hearing is tested fine; something goes sideways in comprehension. It’s worse when there is background noise which both obscures the voice and adds to my general anxiety.
To help attenuate the voice-processing problem I read lips, in a way, when talking to someone in person. If they turn away I find it more difficult to understand what they are saying. This has obvious ramifications for phone calls and also for ham radio. When I listen to voice over the phone or radio I find it very helpful to wear headphones/earbuds that place the voice directly in my ears.
So to sum up, I (correctly or otherwise) perceive incoming phonecalls as unilateral demands for immediate one-on-one attention in a medium that is deeply unpleasant for me. So, no. You can’t call me.
the final straw
I was in Craggy Wash in late November, hiking with Muffin. The sun was setting behind a mountain and the sky was on fire with yellows, oranges, purples and reds. I stood there for an unusually long time staring and being immersed in the beauty of it all.
In the middle of this reverie the phone rang. I sent it to voicemail and decided to do something about it. When I got back to camp this decision was reinforced; Google had transcribed the vm and it was entirely pointless.
phone setup, and the solution
My phone setup is hidden behind Google Voice. Calls have historically forwarded from by GV number (the only one I actually use) to the Verizon and Tmo SIMs. The Verizon phone stays in the van and is the internet connection. The TMO sim comes with me in the Redmi phone. I probably make 10 minutes of outgoing voice calls a year. That TMO number is an old prepaid sim that started out with 1000 minutes in around 2005. It still has over 800 minutes left on it. It costs $10/year to keep it active. I also keep a ATT flip phone with no SIM in my daypack, in case that works for 911 purposes.
After the Craggy Wash Incident I turned off the GV forwarding so all calls go directly to voicemail. Then google transcribes the vm and “texts” the content to the GV account.
This solution allows emergency calls if needed, and keeps my blood pressure under control. I’ve updated the “days counter” scriptlet:
872 days boondocking
834 days on 6v GC2 bank
38 days on Do Not Disturb