Monday, November 23, 2015

Calling People is Really Hard

Below is a typical conversation in our house:

Me: Why would the electric company bill us this way? This is an outrage and I demand justice.
J: Why don't you call them and find out?
Me: I could also NOT call them and just email their customer service.
J: Or you could just CALL.
Me: Or YOU could just call.

+several weeks later+

J: Did you ever find out why they were billing us that way?
Me: Nope.*

I've never been a phone person. Those people at the office who grumble about how Kimberly So-and-so always sends a million emails instead of just making a phone call? Those people are grumbling about me. I am Kimberly So-and-so. (Fun fact: I was almost named Kimberly. So I could have ACTUALLY been Kimberly So-and-so.) I've assessed the issue for years and it all boils down to two groups: complete strangers and people I know who I am convinced secretly dislike and/or distrust me (according to my brain, 98% of people). Complete strangers are the worst, and everyone's go-to advice is "You'll never speak to them ever again." This advice is useless to me. You might as well tell me that I am a head of lettuce. As much as I try to turn my brain-noise down and speak rational words, as soon as the customer service rep asks me what I'm calling about I immediately say something like "Umm, uhh, I don't know if I have the right department, I'm sorry if not, but um, I think there's a problem with my bill, and uh, gah I'm sorry, I just don't understand how we got charged for this, and umm, do you need my account information first...or...umm...?"

I'm already not the most confident person with the spoken word. In a group of a handful of people who I work with on a daily basis, I still get clammy and heart-pound-y when I'm talking and they are all focusing on me. I might have more to say about something, but my chest feels like it's pounding so hard that it's rattling my vocal chords around, and I try to cut myself off before I sound like I did three minutes into my half-hour presentation for my high school senior project. I know for a fact that I probably sound perfectly normal most times and all of this is in my head. That's what makes it so frustrating. I'm talking to this random, bored customer service rep in Somewhere, Iowa about why my coffee table hasn't shipped yet and they probably think I sound like any other person who says "um" a lot and can't form coherent sentences (most of America).

I am also incapable of calling somewhere to complain about something. If I am required to be mean to a customer service rep because their company messed something up, I just can't do it. If their company messed up, I will probably still end up apologizing to the customer service rep even when they should actually be apologizing to me. And when the rep does apologize for their company's transgressions, I say something like "Oh I know, it's ok, it's really ok, I understand, I know it's not your fault." And I feel better after saying this to them, as though they were actually going to lie awake that night thinking about my phone call and how I didn't assure them that it wasn't their fault. But if they are anything at all like me (god help them), lying in bed worrying about random, insignificant shit that happened throughout the day isn't exactly an unrealistic idea.

This reminds me of something. I am fully convinced that ordering food online was invented for people who don't like to make phone calls. I know I'm not the only one because I actually have a friend who is also afraid of making phone calls. I'm convinced there are more of us out there and this online ordering shit was not just created for lazy people. I never even liked calling to order pizza when I was growing up. It's probably the easiest phone conversation to have, so it didn't make me panic as much, but I still tried to defer to others to make the call. Even better are the doctor's offices and auto repair shops that will let you make an appointment online. That shit is huge for me. Also if I can put in some sort of customer support ticket online instead of making a phone call, I would 100% rather do that instead of talk to a real person and get a faster response. This is my life. 

But I'm ok with that. Mostly. I'd love to be perfectly at-ease when talking to strangers, or even people I know fairly well but who I am convinced secretly hate me, but I am not. Not everyone can have every trait they want to have. Some people would love to get really tired after half a day of mild activity. I can do that. Actually that's a lie, no one wants that at all. I can, however, write a good paper in a day or two, with very little preparation or drafting. I've been told eleventy-billion times that I'm an asshole because of this. Those people can probably speak in coherent sentences when talking to a customer service rep, so I can call them assholes too. It's a vicious cycle of assholes. Put a word problem in front of me and I freeze up and my tongue rolls out of my mouth and my eyes go all wonky and I fall on the floor twitching. Everyone is their own person. We are good at some things and not so good at others. Just because I get really anxious about calling unfamiliar human beings doesn't make me some sort of crazy person.

....but OTHER things make me some sort of crazy person, like how I can bring myself to tears in a public setting by just THINKING about the music from the Lion King, or how I have a very specific fear of stuffed toy cats that meow and move like they're alive. But you'll just have to hear about those things another time. 



*Fun fact: I started this post in September, and due to my overwhelmingly bad memory and possibly debilitating procrastination, completely forgot about it. What made me remember it, you ask? Finally resolving the question of why our electric bill was billing us a certain way. I had emailed the company over a month ago and they just now got back to me. Would I still rather have waited two months to learn the answer, when I could have just made a phone call and found out immediately? Absolutely yes.