This is an account of a fictional but pretty typical day.
I stop for coffee on my way to work. Since I stop there frequently, I know the baristas. At least, I know them by sight, and they know me (and my drink order!)– as far as I know they don’t know my name. I walk in and see that it’s the dark-haired girl making drinks. I only know her name because randomly they wore name tags for a couple of days. The dark-haired girl’s name tag read “emily.” I like her–she’s nice.
But do I rejoice that I will get to talk to her? Nope! Instead, all kinds of thoughts are running through my mind: When should I say hello– right when I see her? She looks busy. Should I say my drink order at the register, or do I assume that they remember it when I hand them my reusable mug?
I overhear another patron asking emily about her vacation. Do they know each other outside of the patron-barista relationship? How, in interactions that last a few minutes a day, did they get to the point where they know about each other’s lives? I don’t know how to do that– I can make conversation, but it’s restricted to the niceties and talk about the weather. Which, granted, in Minnesota is actually an interesting topic, but still.
At any rate, I have cordial but superficial interactions with the dude and the dark-haired girl as I go about getting my coffee. They make excellent coffee, which is an introvert’s best friend.
I get to work and get settled in, and open up my email. There it is: a message from Auto Forward, with the subject line “Fwd: (612.XXX.XXXX) 01:18 Voice Message.” It’s a voicemail. Oh, crap on a cracker, I think as I put in my headphones to listen to it. As I listen, I evaluate whether I can justifiably respond by email instead of calling the person back. Maybe the caller will leave an email address in their message, thereby giving me permission to respond by email. No such luck. Or, maybe it’s one of my students, who has questions that require web links or attachments? Nope, it’s a parent–strike two. Even worse, they don’t specify their questions in their message– it’s just “I have some questions about the Montpellier program.” So there’s no chance I can just call and hopefully leave the answers on their voicemail. No, there is simply no way around it– I am going to have to have a phone conversation.
As I pick up the phone and dial the number, I can feel my heartbeat speed up and my body temperature rise. Why! I know I will have the answers, and more often than not, the parents I speak to on the phone are pleasant and thank me for answering their questions. This is the case today– the mother I speak to tells me I’ve been very helpful and thanks me for my time. There’s no rational reason to be nervous, but there’s just something about this method of communication that causes me stress. It’s infuriating.