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A Telephonic Study … With …. Study Group, Maybe, If You’re Not Busy, I Guess, Hopefully
A phone call seems so inherently awkward. I hate making phone calls. I stutter, I ramble, I trip over my words. I say things that I never meant, and the worst part of all is you can never gauge the reaction from the other person. Are they making a face? Am I misinterpreting the inflection in their voice? Does this surreal pause mean that they’re preoccupied with something else…or do they just want nothing to do with me? It takes a lot of courage for me to pick up a phone and say – say whatever. It doesn’t matter why I’m calling, it doesn’t matter who I’m calling. I hate phones and I hate the way I bungle when I use one.
Sometimes the time calls though. As much as I’ve tried to evade telephone use in my sixteen years of existence, it’s a necessary evil. Not everyone has an accessible email, you don’t always see people during the day, and any other mode of communication seems too tragically out dated to consider. As it seems, telephones, to my dismay, will always be in fashion. As long as I’m living where I’m living, I’m going to have to use one.
I call people in public places. I can’t stand the possibility of having somebody know hear me on the phone. So I try to camouflage it in other people’s conversations. I hate people telling me that I adopted the way the other person spoke, or that I spoke too quickly. It takes a lot of energy and when somebody calls me back, I answer on the first ring. I can’t adhere to telephone convention. I can’t and I’ve come to the conclusion that I won’t. Phone etiquette is something I ignore.
I was put to the task yesterday. I had to use a phone. More or less necessary than other communicative endeavors, I’d been prepping myself for this call for weeks. I’d thought it out, made a mental list of pros and cons…nothing could go wrong. With the best of intentions, I told my mom to drive me to the library. I was equipped with a cell phone and my “studies”. This was going to get done. I spent three hours at the library, without speaking to a soul.
Finally, at six o’clock, I decided I was going to do it. I took a deep breath, stepped outside and…
“Hiiii,” extended greeting. It went on a little longer than I wanted it to. “Can I speak to Andrew?”
“He’s in the shower right now…If I could take a message?” his mother.
“No, no, it’s – it’s alright. I can always tell him at school.” But the fact of the matter was, I couldn’t. I mean, I wouldn’t be calling if I could, would I?
“Oh, no, please let me take a message.”
“…I – it’s Ainsl-ley … A – I – N – S – L – Eee – Y.”
“Ainsley, A-I-N-S-L-E-Y. I’m uh, I’m calling because, I’m calling because I was wondering if uh, Andrew wanted to… be part…of a study group…with…Study group.”
“Alright, Ainsley, I’ll tell him when he gets out of the shower to call you back.”
My mother drove up, and I turned off my phone. I couldn’t risk him calling back when I was on the way home. As soon as we reached the front door though, I made a mad dash for my bedroom. I turned my phone on, put it on my desk and waited.
Twenty-minutes later the familiar sound of some late nineties gangster rap and I knew I was getting a call.
“Hi?” My heart was racing. I imagined myself speaking another language.
“Hello Ainsley,” he said, mispronouncing my name ever-so-slightly. “It’s Andrew, uh…you called?”
“Yes, yes I did –two things- One,” I tried to be firm and own my words. “One – study group – I was thinking – for science– you know – the people we sit wi—us, we could, we could do something – studying – What do you think?”
“It’d really depend on when….”
“Anytime, really, anytime you’re – I actually didn’t think this out too well,” nervous laughter. “I called everyone else and I decided I was going to call you and I – I’m busy pretty much every day, weekends too, I’m a pretty busy kid, I guess I didn’t…”
“What do you think though? I don’t know – uh, I didn’t know Justin’s…”
“Yeah, uh, I would have called him but I didn’t know it.”
“Two,” another attempt at owning my words. “Do you want – I always want to ask this during class, but I never really get a chance – I… Well, I really, I think – Do you want to hang out sometime?”
“It’s okay – if you don’t want to, I mean, I don’t care a lot, well, obviously I care since I called, but uh, it’s okay, I don’t, you can say no.”
“Really, you can say no, I won’t mind.”
“You can say no.”
Pause. “I’m sorry but the answer will have to be no….But I think it’d be best if we talked about this before class tomorrow.”
“Alright, so, call Justin, tell him about the study group, I have to go.”
It had been the most awkward phone call of my life. Through a bevy of other experiences, this one had been the worst, by far. An hour later, I received another phone call. I answered on the first ring.
“I’m sorry about before, I had no privacy.”
My heart leaped.
“Were you asking me out on a date?”
“No! No – I wasn’t I just thought—” Truth be told…
“Oh, good. I’m already dating someone.”
“No…no, I was just…no, it was…implied it’d be…with the group, that’s why I said…preferably with a group.”
He has a good memory.
There was a surreal pause. “I’m sorry…I’m not really social and I mis…” there was pseudo-compassion.
“I think the lines are less blended when you get older….” Emphasis on the word older, as in, I’m a grade ahead of you, buddy.
“Do you mean more blended?”
I started to well up with tears. I looked to the book beside me. Plato’s Republic. Plato…Plato… Platonic. Damnit, I’m not Oscar Wilde and he’s not Lord Alfred Douglas. No help.
“No, I mean – I don’t know what I mean – anyway, I just thought you were an interesting person in the Platonic sense and – I – really have to go soon – I – uh -…” I use the reference anyway. I’m still not Oscar Wilde.
“Well, uh, thanks, in that case, yes, I think it’d be alright with – Do you still want me to call Justin?”
“No … uh, yeah – yeah tell him about the group, I just don’t know if it’s such a good idea anymore, because of that assertion you – it was kind of arrogant…”
“Call Justin, see, I called everyone before I called you because I’m kind of awkward on the phone, especially with boys, and uh, yeah, it was sort of difficult calling you, and well, call Justin.”
“Alright, so…I gotta go.”
“Alright, I’m calling Justin.”