I've admitted in the past to having a UFO phobia. Fortunately, this particular little weirdness of mine doesn't affect my life on a daily basis, even if it does mean I will never, and I mean NEVER, visit Marfa. And I still haven't ever watched all of "Close Encounters."
I have other things I'm afraid of, like scorpions, but that's because they are in my house and can actually sting me. Then there's my fear of dentists, but that is well earned. Ask me sometime about the summer I spent $15,000 on my teeth.
But my one other big phobia is talking on the phone. Until today, I'd told exactly four people about this, and one of them is my husband. Another is my phsrink, who kindly gave me his cell phone number so I could text him if I was having problems with my medications instead of calling him. I've never said anything because talking on the phone seems to be a really, really stupid thing to be this scared of.
If you call me, odds are, I'm not going to answer the phone. I think e-mail and text messages are the world's best inventions, along with the polio and smallpox vaccines, of course.
A lot of my phobia about talking on the phone comes from my social anxiety. When I'm on the phone, I can't pick up social cues like the eye-rolling and sighing that usually indicate I've talked way too much. And I worry all the time about talking too much.
This also means I don't call people very often, except for my mom and sister and childhood best friend. I figure they have to keep liking me even if I talk too much about something stupid.
And not being able to pick up the phone and call people has its drawbacks.
Like the friends I don't talk to ever because I'm afraid I'll annoy them by calling (yes, really). This includes people I've considered close friends for more than 15 years.
Like the calls to the insurance company, wheelchair supply place, and doctors' offices regarding Ella's surgery that I haven't made yet because all of those involve talking to, gasp, strangers.
Like the calls I haven't made to preschools yet because, again, that would involve talking to more strangers.
Like the panic attacks I have before each and every work-related conference call.
Like contacting Ella's school about her unexcused absences because talking to the school secretary, who is actually a very, very nice lady, scares me.
Like the playdates and sleepovers I haven't arranged for the kids because I'd have to talk to other moms on the phone.
Believe it or not, my college job was doing phone fundraising for the University of Florida Alumni Association. I spent three hours a night, three nights a week, calling absolute strangers on the phone and asking them to donate money. I was good at it, too.
Now, there's no way I could do that.
One friend sent an e-mail looking for volunteers to man a phone bank for President Obama's campaign. I really, really wanted to go. But even thinking about volunteering, much less actually going and making phone calls, sent my anxiety levels through the roof. So I didn't even reply to the e-mail.
Today, with B standing next to me for moral support, I actually called the insurance company about billing questions. When I finished talking to three very lovely and helpful staff members and hung up, B asked, "Was that so terrible?" It was. My palms were sweating and my hands were shaking, and it will likely be the last phone call I make for a few days.
So if you haven't heard from me, it's not because I don't love you or care about you. I'll be happy to send an e-mail or text. Just don't make me pick up the phone.