A Rant: “Here, Let Me Put You On Speaker Phone.”

It’s well-known that I don’t like cell phones (see my article last year for VICE Magazine), but the truth is I don’t like any kind of phone (Not a rotary phone, not a cordless phone, not a payphone, in fact, no phone at all). I’m partial to the phrase “A phone is an appliance, not an obligation,” and I treat all phones like appliances, annoying appliances, appliances that I want to silence or rip out of people’s hands, appliances that I want to crush with my 20-ounce framing hammer.

But one of the worst phone-gadget-accessory-inventions is the speaker phone. That small insidious button is a true asshole.

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I hate being put on speaker phone. Hate it. I hate speaker phone like many people hate Justin Bieber, long lines at the super market, heavy traffic, engine trouble, or the uglier Kardashians. I have never knowingly put another human being on speaker phone in my lifetime, and I hope I never become a terrible enough person to do this to someone I love (or even to someone I just sort of like).

There are so many things I hate about speaker phone, so it’s difficult to know where to begin with this rant. Maybe I’ll just start with this one, tiny, abominable phrase:

“Oh here, Pete, let me switch you over to speaker phone so you can talk to everyone.”

Really? You’ll do that for me? You’ll just switch me over to speaker phone so I can talk to everyone? Everyone I didn’t ask to talk to? Thanks. I really wanted to talk to everyone. I really wanted to talk to everyone so badly that I called you, only you, just you, one single person, to communicate one single thing that now is going to take FUCKING FOREVER because I’ve got to navigate the Everest-size crevasse that is communication with whoever EVERYONE is.

And also, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to many, many people who I can’t picture in whatever size room you’re in, wherever you are right now, doing whatever you all are doing. I already had a hard enough time just picturing you and your face and your actions while we’re on the phone having a singular conversation, but thank you for giving me another mental challenge. I really wanted this phone call to be a mental Gordian Knot rather than a quick one-on-one communication to convey a message or ask a question.

Next: The sound of a speaker phone in someone’s car.

The other person’s voice cutting in and out? The mumbling? The “What did you say?” repeated over and over. The person saying, “I’m sorry” but it’s never an actual apology. Or what about the side conversations in the car during the phone call? The passing traffic sounds? The driver’s comments about other drivers? The music in the background? The clicking? The clunks? And all the while it sounds like a prenatal ultrasound machine is struggling to find a baby’s heartbeat. It’s really a great experience. I just love being on car speaker phone.

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I also love seeing fellow drivers talk on their speaker phones, leaning out their open windows, or looking directly at me while talking to their own empty cars like patients at the state hospital in serious need of heavy psychotropics. And then when they yell at whoever they’re talking to as if they’re trying to get my attention? Oh, I love that too.

Let’s see…

Another of my favorite things is when I’m apparently too stupid to detect that I’ve been SECRETLY on speaker phone the whole time. I say something like, “Oh, that’s a good question. Let me talk to her for a minute and see what she thinks.”

Then the person who I called directly chuckles at my ridiculous and obvious stupidity. He says, “You’re already on speaker phone, Pete. She just heard everything we said.”

Oh really? She was silently listening like a creep, like a stalker, like a serial killer to everything we just said, not commenting, not letting me know that she was listening, just you and her in on a little trick you were pulling on me? That’s so funny. That so chuckle-worthy. I love, love, love it when I don’t know someone is in on our private conversation.

But I get that people are busy, that sometimes they have to click me over to speaker phone, that sometimes they’re cooking or changing a baby or doing something else that might actually be sort of worthwhile or important when I call them…

Which leads me to my least favorite calling experience: When someone CALLS ME and we’re already on speaker phone when I pick up.

“Hey Pete, how’s it going?” and it sounds like they’re calling me from a public restroom, the hard sounds caroming off the stall’s angles as I’m forced to picture them squeezing off a burrito-sized log.

It’s hard for me to stay with phone calls that obviously begin on speaker phone. If you’re too busy not to multi-task, don’t call me. Don’t call me while you’re in the bath shaving your legs or slopping soap on your genitals. I don’t want to hear that watery-sudsy sound in the background.

And don’t call me while you’re peeing (which people actually do somewhat regularly with me). I don’t need to hear the force of your stream and wonder about your coffee or water intake as you ask me what I’m up to. I want to say, “Who cares?!! You’re FUCKING peeing right now, right when you called me!”

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And please don’t ever call me as you try to find something that you’ve lost. I can hear your hand sorting through that spilling-over junk drawer as you say, “Yeah I was just…” more sorting noises, then “I’m sorry, I’m just…” more sorting noises, and I have no idea why you called me, but if I wait a minute or two while you find whatever it is, I’ll get the opportunity to know what our conversation is going to be about.

Yes, thanks for calling me just now. This is great. This is a really, really, really wonderful phone call we’re having here. Thank you. Thank you so much for letting me join you on this incredible adventure with your favorite technological accessory.

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