can do this, I thought for the twentieth time that morning.
All I have to do is pick up the phone and speak. Sound confident,
thats the secret.
I stared at the phone.
It glared malevolently back, daring me to touch it. Its shiny black
covering with its little LCD display smugly showing the numbers of the
last five people who had phoned me. Mum, somebody trying to sell me
double glazing, John, wrong number and Sara. With complete absorption
I studied their numbers as though they were some hidden code which would
give me the answer to a complete lack of self confidence. They werent,
although I did discover that if I screwed up my eyes all the numbers
looked like the number eight. Its the way the digits are entered.
The number eight fills in all the sides, you see. All the other numbers
have less sides than the number eight.
Reaching out I touched it. I started to depress the numbers in the correct
sequence and imagined how it would sound in the room I was trying to
reach. Would it be a deep, rumbling ring or a high, melodious tone?
Would it be hidden under a pile of papers or sitting on its own? I touched
the keypad and pressed the final number. Thats how easy
it is, I told myself. Now all you have to do is pick up
Daringly, I did so. I stared into the little black dots in the earpiece
and wondered why the earpiece had so many more holes than the mouthpiece.
Something to do with sound waves obviously. Maybe I could look it up
on the internet instead of phoning .... No, that was only putting off
The humming which I had first heard when I picked up the phone had now
deteriorated into an automatons voice asking me to replace the
receiver if I wasnt going to dial a number. She wasnt actually
saying Shit or get off the pot but that was the overall
message she was trying to convey. Hastily I put the receiver down again.
My legs were beginning to get pins and needles due to my kneeling on
them so determinedly by the phone. It started in one big toe and then
crept up the foot and over the next one.
Thisll make me call, I thought triumphantly. Soon
the pain from the pins and needles will annoy me so much that I will
have to stand up. Only Im not allowed to stand up until Ive
made the phone call and so Ill have to make the phone call.
The fatal flaw in this argument was discovered when I realised that
I was the only person who was enforcing this rule. Despite the strongest
protestations from my inner consciousness within thirty seconds I was
rising and walking about trying to dispel the agonising pinpricks which
were afflicting not only my feet but also my lower calves.
Now that I was up, I may as well go to the toilet. All that anxiety
made me want to go. But wait, Im sure I was once told that the
best time to make a phone call was to do it while needing to go to the
toilet. Apparently, or so the theory went, you sounded businesslike
and confident, because, in reality, you were trying to get the business
over and done with so that you could get on with the more urgent matter
at hand - going to the toilet.
It made perfect sense in a way but I decided against it. Largely because
going to the toilet would put off making the phone call for at least
another two minutes.
My husband was using the phone when I returned to the living room. I
gazed at him in envy. The easy way in which he held the receiver, the
determination with which he pressed the correct buttons on the keypad
and the confidence with which he spoke to the person on the other end.
When he was finished he came over and ruffled my hair affectionately.
Done it yet?
He laughed and left. He knew better than to get me in conversation at
such a time. I could delay for hours with such an excuse.
The phones demeanour was no longer menacing. It was now regarding
me in a somewhat pitying manner. Soon it would adopt a patronising demeanour
as it realised that it was safe for one more day from my fumbling attempts
at using it. Suddenly annoyed by its implacability I lunged for the
receiver and lifted it to my ear. With trembling fingers I punched in
the correct sequence of numbers. The phone rang only once at the other
end before it was picked up, thereby giving me no chance of slamming
it down again.
Hello. Is that the Royal Park dental practice?
Im sorry, youve got the wrong number.
Damn. Now I would
have to start all over again.
© Hazel Marshall 2001