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Telephone phobia: don’t call me!

Do not call me!

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Our author has developed an idiosyncratic suffering from the constant exchange in her life: she can no longer endure private telephone calls. And feels downright threatened when the bell rings after work.

What to do when the doorbell rings?

I would like the soundtrack of the horror film “The Legend of Hell House” as a ringtone. Ominous and terrifying, appropriate to the paranoid mood phone calls have been throwing me into for some time. If it vibrates near me, I freeze, fix my phone, wrestle with myself: Should I or not? But I remain motionless. I don’t want to, I can’t! It’s an agonizing feeling, it causes me physical discomfort like a synthetic turtleneck on bare skin. I squirm, start twirling the ends of my hair nervously—until it stops. Finally peace! Actually, I have nothing to fear. I don’t think anyone will want to strangle me from behind if I answer like Grace Kelly did in Hitchcock’s Murder on the Call. I also don’t expect any visitation from my ex-boyfriend, who once had himself elected “Mister Playa Dorada” in the Dominican Republic in my presence, which I am ashamed of to this day. What I’m afraid of feels worse than that: a trivial conversation about something. Working through the standards of health, relationship, job, children, weather. Please do not!

I’m sure nobody suspects that I could feel attacked by private calls. Because I’m the type of person who likes to chat. Who urges conversation on strangers waiting at traffic lights because they wear the same shoes. Who lamented endlessly with the neighbor from the 3rd floor about the condition of the balconies. I like to talk in real life, I’m interested in everything, actively seek contact. I just can’t stand retelling of book contents or meticulous film summaries. And precisely: penetrating increasing tinkling. Because it usually overtakes me in the last third of the day when my capacities are exhausted, I’m fed up with communication. Also, needing a tech tool for this type of conversation feels like work and completion. “No,” I say quietly to myself when the doorbell rings, and close my eyes to escape within myself.

The excessive exchange that has entered my everyday life with my job, life in the city, the children, the communities of daycare, school, sports club and heaven-knows-what has led to a pronounced telephone phobia in me. Today I find it inconceivable that my mother used to have to pull the cable out of the wall so that I could finally stop talking to my friends on the other end of the line about what I went through at school in the half hour since we said goodbye . Today, just listening like that is the worst thing for me. Waste of time at its best.

When a call means stress

This is also the moment when the symptoms described become most apparent. If someone “gets through for a moment”, as they say in my hometown in rural Lower Saxony, that means for me: pure stress. If it happens after 8 p.m. on Netflix, I see it as a transgression, almost as an act of aggression. Because at the end of a busy day, I literally have nothing more to say.

However, there is no escape. When the ringing stops, doubts arise: Was it important? Am I abandoning someone in need? Will I ever be able to bring myself to call back? And what if that person answers? The persecution mania when it happens outside is also very bad: have I been observed staring at my display in horror and then burying the phone deep in my pocket – possibly by the caller himself?

Maybe I’m the only person who likes voice messages. Messages that last longer than two minutes are generally considered an impertinence. But why? What I like best is that I can listen to them whenever I want. I can choose the moment of the sound reinforcement myself. And that’s when I really don’t have anything better to do.

Lena Schindler often doesn’t answer when our editors call. But she calls back shortly after.

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