In my professional life, I am on the phone constantly. It’s part of my job – so I do it. I’m paid to return calls, so I do that too.
In my personal life, I am rarely on the phone. I don’t call people back, half the time I don’t listen to my answering machine, I never check to see if there’s voice mail on my mobile phone, and more often than not, I’ll just let the phone ring and not answer.
I can’t really tell you why I’m like this. I do know I realized at a very young age I hated calling people and asking them to do things, confirm things, or set up things. It wasn’t until my mid-30’s that I realized I didn’t like talking on the phone much, either. My friends learned if you call me, you better have a point, and you better get to it fairly quickly. I also expect you to hold your end of the conversation up. Don’t call Mit, then sit there with big silences stretching out.
Charming, aren’t I?
Because of my phone aversion, I don’t get a lot of calls. But last night I had FOUR calls. All long distance – and all enjoyable.
The first call was from a friend who I e-mail a lot, but don’t talk to on the phone much. When my phone rang last night it said, “Unknown caller, Unknown number”. I almost didn’t answer, but there was someone from out-of-town, who was in town, and I figured it might be him. When I answered the phone, the voice on the other end said, “Mit? Ms. Mit Moi?” I hesitated. I mean, how many people confirm your full name when they call you unless they’re trying to sell you something, or ask you questions you don’t want to answer?
As I was acknowledging that indeed, I was Mit, I processed the voice records in my mind. (remember, my job this time of year is to speak to customers daily. I’m pretty good at recognizing voices without being told who’s calling) In a flash, the caller’s name came to my lips and with happiness I greeted him. We talked for a long time (86 minutes to be exact) – most of it inconsequential stuff. Something of a record for me. As I hung up, I thought, “Well, now I’ve gotten my talk out.” Then I remembered another friend from Canada would be calling soon.
On cue, the phone rang and her Canadian accent drifted from the frozen north to my ear. We talked about boys, roommates, traveling, work, and friends in common. Another enjoyable conversation. As we said our goodbyes I sternly reminded myself, “No more distractions. Finish writing this piece – and off to bed for you.”
Ha! Sometimes I wonder if God only listens into my life when I try and make plans. Evidence would certainly collaborate this supposition. I had written 2 more paragraphs when the phone rang again.
“I am SO not answering it,” I said to myself. Then I looked at the caller ID. “Mr. and Mrs. Original Box Mitter”. I admit. There was a moment of internal conflict. Ignore the call and return it later?
“No-no, you know you won’t return it – and if you try, you’ll surely screw up somewhere in the 12 digit long-distance number, 12 digit secret squirrel code, followed by the 12 digit number home,” and just be more frustrated. I decided to answer the phone.
“Hi Mom!” and listened to her news of the family Thanksgiving, and the neighbors. Then I answered all her questions. The one about where a street was located in relationship to my house, my Thanksgiving, who was here, and what did we eat. As a bonus I told her about teasing Dr. Esq. unmercifully, brining the turkey, and about my work.
Hanging up with her, I finished my article and posted it in all three forums. (don’t ask) I was off to bed slightly later than I wanted, but snuggled in the warm blankets with my book by 10:30 … when the F’ING phone rang AGAIN.
By this point I was pretty agitated. Who the HELL calls ME at 10:30 at night? The phone next to my bed doesn’t have caller ID, so I picked it up blindly, not knowing who was on the other end.
“Hello?”, I said in my most drowsy voice.
Totally ignoring the “I’m almost asleep snarl” that I’d answered with, a cheerful male voice said, “Hello Ms. Mitter? We’re calling to see if you’ve secured your next California trip, and if so, when can we expect you?”
Once again, I was forced to go to the memory bank to dig out this voice file. “Coming to California? Why would I be coming to California?” I asked. The internal dialogue was more like, “No-no, this isn’t my colleague the “dick-dialer” (story for another day), nor is it my “little” brother in Texas, I talked to him on Wednesday ….. oh… brother … holy shit! This is my brother calling me!” Quickly I jumped out of bed to get the other phone, the one that doesn’t have a propensity to hang up 5 minutes into a call, and jumped back in bed.
We had a long chat – talking about our parents, friends we have in common, his recent deer-hunting trip, his job, business travel, and his two daughters. He also told me his wife had “lost” one of their dogs. As we talked I yawned a few times. At the third yawn, it finally registered with him. “Why are you yawww … oh, 9, 10, 11 … Hey! It’s 11 o’clock there isn’t it? I bet you were in bed! Are you asleep?”
“No, no … not asleep at the moment. But I did have the lights out when you called.”
“Oh, wow. I bet this is late for you. I should let you go – but hey! Here’s Kennedy. Do you want to talk to her?”
Now, we all know, there is no way you can refuse to talk to a niece without sounding like an ogre. It’s a reputation I’m trying to change. “Sure … put her on,” I said while rolling my eyes and kicking myself. Really, I just don’t excel at conversing with 7 year olds. But I tried really hard. I asked her about the pilgrim costume grandma is making her for the Christmas pageant. I tried to tease her about pilgrims and Christmas, but my wit was lost on her. Trying to keep the conversation going I asked her what her favorite food was from the night before. “Turkey.” End of that conversation.
“What was the best part of the day yesterday?” I prompted – hoping to draw her out.
“I don’t know,” was her reply.
“My favorite part about going places on holidays was always the leaving part,” I told her with a laugh.
Sigh. 7 year old humor is so hard to manufacture. Figuring we were at the end of the conversation I took a breath, ready to say good-bye.
“Mom lost Charlie”
“Oh, (great THIS is a landmine I’m not equipped to deal with!) … well I bet Charlie found another family who’s much nicer than yours!” I said. (Oh, great Mit, insinuate they are a crappy family. Now YOU’RE gonna be the one in the dog house.)
“I don’t think so,” said a high pitched sad little voice on the phone. “I love him a lot. He was my FAVORITE dog.”
“Well, err, umm – I bet Gretchen (not the real name of the other dog, but I can’t think of it right now) is happier to be the only dog and not have to share with Charlie. That makes you happy, doesn’t it?”
“No, it doesn’t Aunt Mittany.” (great job Mit! Major fail there too!)
“Do you know what time it is, here where Aunt Mittany lives, Kennedy?” I asked. (trying to change the subject, because really – what the hell do you say?? Your Mom let the dog out ON PURPOSE, because she and your Dad didn’t LIKE the dog anymore??? No, no … surely that is NOT the thing to say and remain part of the family.)
“Noooo,” came back her small voice. “What time is it there?”
“It’s 11:30 and way past Aunt Mittnay’s bedtime. I guess we should say goodnight. Don’t you?”
“Okay, night Aunt Mittany. Here’s my Dad.”
And the phone went back to my brother. “Way to go … talk about the missing dog in front of your daughter – and then leave me to wade through that landmine on my own, you big goof,” I said.
“Oh, did she bring up Charlie?” he said, followed by laughter.
“Well, if she has nightmares, or accuses you guys of not being a loving family it’s not my fault,” I shot back.
“Eh – I’m not worried. She’s a pretty tough little kid. Want to talk to your other niece? She’s standing right here.”
Now, can you imagine the black marks upon my soul had I said, “Holy Christ! It’s 11:30 pm out here. Shouldn’t your kids be in bed and can you NOT hear me YAWNING with every other sentence???” But instead I said, “Sure … I’d love to talk to her too.”
It was a short conversation. She has 150 songs on her Nano I-POD she bought herself. She hates science. Her favorite classes are recess and PE. (Clearly NOT related to me – or the rest of our side of the family.) There was nothing good about going to Grandpa and Grandma’s for Thanksgiving. Nor was there any worse part either. She was totally neutral on the topic. (see? Really, NOT related).
“Good night Mermaid girl,” I said figuring there wasn’t really anything left to cover.
“Night Aunt Mittany. I love you,” she said and hung up the phone.
At that moment I loved her more than ever before, because she did not hand that damn phone back to my brother!