How To Even….Answer Your Telephone

By Michael Gushue & CL Bledsoe

The world has changed dramatically in recent years, but only old people realize that. Seemingly just last week, cell phones were the size of cars and only FBI agents or pool hustlers had them. Or something. We don’t know. We didn’t have one back then. Even as recently as the ancient days of the Aughts (aka The Naughty Aughties), it was considered bad taste to let an important phone call go to voicemail. Back then, voicemail was someone named Claude who did his best. When the phone rang, we answered it and talked to whoever was calling, regardless of whether they wanted to ask us things. We had intestinal fortitude. Because we had to. To further strain credulity, texts weren’t even a thing. Though we did sometimes write 58008 on a calculator and hold it upside down.

Nowadays, though, texting is ubiquitous. The voices of young people atrophy more and more every day, while their thumbs grow to monstrous proportions. Calling someone — expecting them to answer the phone and talk to you — is considered, like, stalker behavior. But what happens when you get a job with old people and have to actually answer the phone? Will you even know how? Also, aren’t phones, like, dirty? Why would anyone put that thing to their ears where the germs can get to their brains?

These are all good questions, and we’ll answer them. Well, no, we probably won’t. But hey, good job for thinking of them! Have some startup shares!

Instead, let’s talk about how to answer that phone professionally and without terror-crying. First off, we know it doesn’t look like what you’re used to. It probably doesn’t have a viewscreen or any apps. It also probably didn’t come in a designer color. It’s just a big, gray, ugly piece of plastic sitting on your desk. This is purposeful. If it were attractive, you might feel some joy looking at it. The company isn’t paying you to feel joy. It’s paying you to suffer out the hours of your life — hours you’ll never get back.

Real talk: old people are afraid that they’re going to die. They are, of course, but they’re afraid it will happen sooner rather than later. See, they can feel the Angel of Death’s hoary eyes watching their every move, liking their pics on social media, sending little sickle emojis. It’s in the silence that Death is most comfortable. That’s why old people like to talk on the phone so much; they’re trying to scare away Death.

One of the best ways to deal with a fear is to face it. That way, it either devours your soul or you realize it’s just a shadow or something and the true fear is inside you. Until the ax murderer who’s been hiding in your closet cuts your heart out and eats it while you bleed out. But we digress.

So, let’s role play.

You’re sitting at your desk. You hear a buzzing or dinging noise and ascertain, after several minutes, that the phone is ringing. What do you do?

a. Scream at it to shut up.
b. Pour holy water on it until it returns to the darkness from whence it came.
c. Pretend it doesn’t exist, like your student loan debt or your mental health issues.
d. Pick up the headset and say, “Hello?”

If you answered “d,” good job! Let’s try another.

Your boss tells you to call someone and set up a meeting or something. (You weren’t paying attention.) What do you do?

a. Quit immediately. You don’t need this shit.
b. Pay your Uber driver to do it.
c. Lie and say you did it, even though you didn’t.
d. Pretend you’re sending a text, but with your mouth.

If you answered “d,” great work! One more for luck.

Your phone rang, and you picked it up. Good job, you! But now, some person is talking into your ear. What do you do?

a. Read your Bible to it. Clearly, an unclean spirit is attempting to gain entrance.
b. Cry under your desk.
c. Listen to what they say, write down anything necessary, thank them, and hang up.
d. All of the above.

This one could go a couple ways. “D” is an acceptable answer, as long as the crying and Bible-reading do lead to a usable message. “C” is what “the man” expects you to do. “B” is, honestly, where we spend most of our time, so it’s kind of a catchall for most things.

We could go into all the complicated stuff about conference calls and how to check voicemail, but that’s technology. You’re good on that front. Everyone in the office already asks you how to use technology, and they don’t realize that all you’re doing is Googling their questions. (And no one really knows how the conference feature works, anyway.) What you need is courage.

Don’t get us wrong, here. We hate talking on the phone. Or talking in general. Or communicating in any way. Or being awake. But business people love the sounds of their own voices, and they want you to love it too. Also, many of them can’t read. This is the sad result of our failing education system.

Okay, so now you know what to do. That’s the easy part. The hard part is facing your fear. So why is talking on phones so scary? Thanks for asking! It’s because you can’t see the speaker’s face or eyes, so you don’t know if they’re really human or six squirrels pretending to be human or a demon pretending to be six squirrels pretending to be human. Is the person angry? Do they think you look cute today? Are they secretly trying to bury a nut under your desk? You can’t tell. Inflection doesn’t help much, either, because some people have resting jerk voice.

The More You Know: Inflection is a term that describes the pitch and tone of a person’s voice, but what it really means is the emotional perspective the listener projects onto the voice. It has a lot to do with the genders the speaker and listener identify as. For example, when a fem/woman’s voice is described as “rude” or “unfriendly” by a cishet male, that means he thinks she won’t have sex with him, and he’s confused as to why. She, on the other hand, might describe her own voice as, “professional,” which also means that she doesn’t want to have sex with him, and also, this is a workplace, fucker. On the flipside, if the cishet male describes a woman’s voice as, “friendly” or “professional,” what he means is that he thinks she wants to have sex with him, whereas she might describe her own voice as, “God, I need another job. But what if it’s just as bad as this place?”


At some point in the near future, phones will be phased out completely and replaced with poor people who run messages back and forth, like carrier pigeons. Only the very rich will have office jobs, since most things will be automated. These messengers won’t be automated, because robots just don’t weep right, not matter how we program them. Until that day, and the inevitable glorious Red Revolution that will quickly follow, when we will feast upon the broken bodies of the 1% and use their marrow to make our bread, you’re probably going to have to answer the phone at some point. Just think about that delicious marrow bread as you listen to some old guy ramble on and on and on. He might not be delicious, but he will be nutritious.

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