first come, first serve?

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Finally! Friday! I am talking with my friends on the phone and they ask if they can hang out at my house. I tell them to wait a few minutes and let me call my mom, who works full time, for permission. I hang up and dial my mom’s cell phone; there is no answer. I call my mom’s other cell phone; no answer. I call my mom’s work phone; no answer. I even try my dad’s cell phone, but there is no answer from him either. Frustrated, I call my mom’s first cell phone again, to leave the short message: “Hi, call me back. Bye.” All I need is permission from my mom, but since she won’t pick up her phone, I cannot get it. Soon I fear my friends will just give up and go somewhere else without me.

Ten minutes of stomping around the house ensues. My childish behavior makes me wonder, why do I react so angrily and impatiently when people do not answer their phones?

Finally, my pocket buzzes with Mom’s incoming call.

“Hi! Did you call?” my mom asks.

“Yes! Why didn’t you pick up your phone? I had to ask you something!” I demand.

“Well, I was on a conference call. What do you need?”

Exasperation fills me as I learn the reason for my unanswered call is a simple conference call, a common excuse for my missed calls. Oh, I get it. The reason my mom did not want to talk with me is because she was talking to someone else.
Ever since I was a little girl, I would chatter with my friends. When I was a tot, my parents would even hand me the phone when unwanted solicitors called. I welcomed the conversation, even if I had no clue as to what they talked about. On long car rides my parents would sometimes have to say, “Okay, no more talking for ten minutes” because their ears would hurt after a while. This would always challenge me because it seemed like every three seconds I opened my mouth with something new to say, only to catch myself at the last second. Whenever my mom received an invitation to a party, I would always enthusiastically shout, “Can I come Mommy, can I come?” I wanted to be included in the fun, knowing that the socializing would bring a chance to talk with someone new.
When I have something important to say or ask, and my way of talking shut off, I become very impatient and angry. I am angry that I am being ‘ignored’ because it seems to confirm my suspicion that other people have lives while I do not. My mom is busy with her work life, not answering my call, and my friends will leave me and I will not have a life either.
My time with my friends is already limited to Friday and Saturday nights. School, sailing, and church take up the other five days of the week. Because my schedule permits only ten hours a week for relaxing and chatting with friends, it heightens my anger when even ten minutes are missed. Ten minutes, sitting at home waiting for a returned phone call can lead to a full evening of being left behind. Whenever I am left behind or left out, my self-esteem falls and I feel worthless, as I lack the sense of being needed and wanted.

Some nights I will call up a friend to help with homework, though I secretly know that once we finish we will talk for an hour about just life in general.
“What about problem number 47? Do you know how to do that one?” I ask as I cradle my phone in my right shoulder while trying to scribble down my math homework.

“Yeah, what you have to do is… oh, hang on, someone’s on the other line. I’ll call you back later,” my friend Francis replies, quickly switching over to the other call.

“Ok,” I reply, although our conversation has already ended, and I speak only to the piece of plastic in my hand. Anger rises in my body from the seemingly harmless rejection. Isn’t talking on the phone a first-come, first-serve basis?

I have contemplated whether the reason I feel so angry when people do not pick up their phones is perhaps because I feel that what I have to say is much more important than what the other person is doing. This is impossible, though, because I know the other person calling Francis was another friend asking homework questions. I do not feel like my homework is worth more, I simply am frustrated that I called first, but yet I am overruled by a new call.

In my mind, what makes my mom wrong in not answering my call because she talks to someone on a conference call, while it is also wrong for my friend Francis to switch calls to a new caller? In both cases, I fear rejection, and I fear being left out because of the absence of conversation. It does not matter what the other person does, if not speaking to me could lead to being left out and others having fun and talking without me, then I will react angrily and impatiently.





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