For a few years of my life I despised the phone, somehow convinced that picking it up could only result in unfortunate news (or telemarketing). I’m not so afraid of it now, but for a few minutes this morning I felt as though I was right back in that place.
The feeling owed to an emotionally draining weekend, and from this side of Sunday it seemed to me as if every phone message was a loaded gun waiting to fire a little bit of conflict or a touch of bad tidings – waiting to sidetrack me with more bad news or bad karma.
As a result, when my mother left me a message on both my cell and desk phones with terse instructions to page her without delay I was concerned. Not only was the lack of verbosity completely unbecoming of her, there were children screaming in the background all the while.
Where had she found screaming children, and what was I supposed to do about it? Naturally I imagined the worst. She had found a baby abandoned in a dumpster, and needed me to alert the media while she whisked it to CHOP to have it nursed back to health. She was trapped at gunpoint in a daycare center, unable to stay on the line for long. A school bus had overturned on the 95 South, and she was triaging the children until the paramedics arrived. She had to avert a national nuclear disaster in less than 24 hours of consecutive screen time, less commercial breaks.
I soon learned that, in reality, she was in Sears portrait studio, arguing with the receptionist because the software on their picture discs isn’t compatible with Windows XP (presumably holding up a line of screaming children all the while), and she called me to consult. As the anxious knot in my stomach quietly dissolved into an afternoon case of agita (odgida), I calmly explained that though the hopelessly proprietary software might not work on her computer, the pictures would probably be BMPs or JPGs scanned directly from the negatives, and that she would definitely be able to open those
I wonder if working in the hospital for so long has rendered her immune to the dramatic connotations of such terse messages. Is her day so typically filled with a string of human tragedy that she has lost the ability to discern the difference? Does she find everything to be tragedic? Or, worse still, is everything so commonplace that her emergent response is a tacit reaction?
I refuse to react to all things as catastrophic, or to live in the specter of fear – fear of the phone, or of anything else. I refuse to, unless that same fear can illustrate to me what it is I love so much about the moments after and before it. I am in love with walking, and with singing, and with loving, and with you, and I would not have it any other way.
So, call me.