Friday, December 03, 2010


The Christmas season has certainly arrived in my grocery store. It has been decorated to the nth degree, it is stocked to the ceiling and songs calling out for joy and wonderment play over and over.

It quite put me in a daze. I wandered the aisles, listening to all the old Christmas carols. The decorations were over the top, but done with class and care. I realized the whole idea was to make things look so good, sound so good...the consumer would buy items or gifts, without thinking twice. I proved them right.

I was in the baking section. I'd baked all the previous week and needed reinforcements. I was completely engrossed in picking out dark chocolate when I heard a musical sound that wasn't part of the song about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer presently playing over the loudspeaker.

The sound came at intervals, over and over. I raised my head, wondering, looking around. It took a bit before I realized it was a cell phone.

It was coming from the hands of a woman, who was looking at the black object helplessly...a little fearfully, even...

She looked over at me...I don't know how to answer this phone...said she.

I am no expert on cell phones. I don't know how to use them, either, as a matter of fact. I have a black one that I forget to charge, probably on purpose since the day when I found myself in this lady's position.

She continued...This is a new thing for me...I got this as a present from my son. But I don't know how to answer it or shut it off. And it keeps ringing!!!...

She was becoming undone. I smiled with sympathy and said...I think you flip the lid...

She looked at me and then at her phone, still in her hand. She shoved the phone at me and with great anxiety said...Can you do it?

The phone stopped ringing. I smiled and was beginning to tell her my own stories about cell phones when the phone rang again. This time, she almost threw the thing at me.

I hoped this phone I was now holding was like mine...and it was. I flipped the lid up and handed it to her...You can talk now...I said.

But she backed away, waving her hands in front of her.

...No, no...she answer it!

I looked at her in disbelief. She wanted me to answer her phone?

I looked around. We had drawn a crowd; they were lined up and down the aisle looking at items like flour and the different kinds of maraschino Cherries with intense concentration.

I knew they were all listening.

By this time, I hoped the person who was trying to contact this fine lady had disconnected. I said a tentative Hello into the phone...

...Where is my mother?! What's happened to her?...a frenzied male voice asked frantically...I've left messages, a lot of them. What's wrong?

I have trouble talking on phones. It's a thing of throat closes up, I stumble over words, say things that aren't meant...

I tried to hand the phone over to the lady who had backed herself right up against the chocolate display, looking at me as if the 'divil' himself was crouching in my hand. She shook her head.

I was becoming exasperated, just a bit. I heard her son's shouts coming from the phone...Hello? Hello? Hello?...

I put the phone to my ear...Your mother's alright. She's right, she just doesn't want to talk on this phone...

I tried to reassure the caller, but he was a chip off the old block and had let his anxiety get the best of him.The lady had been standing there with her ringing phone for awhile before I arrived, apparently. He insisted on speaking with her.

In turn, I insisted she take the phone. With my eyes steady on hers, I placed the phone in her hand and said...Talk.

She did.

I let go of the breath I hadn't realized I was holding. I glanced around at the sympathetic faces around us, some wreathed with hilarity.

I felt a huge giggle waiting to burst out of me, as well. I looked at the lady, who was now talking in Italian to her son, with great gesticulations punctuating her speech.

It was time to move on. I smiled at the shoppers lined against the displays and received quite a few wide grins, in return, as I trundled off with my cart.

I smiled at myself as I found I had walked straight to the florist's department. I find Plants when I am anxious...even cut Flowers still have enough energy left in them to calm me.

As I stood there, I wondered what had caused this lady to be so frightened of her cell phone.

But the music, the bonhomie, the general energy there in the store, that day, made me shrug my shoulders and continue shopping. I bought Spiderman gifts for my grandson, lovely girly things for my granddaughter, and enough baking supplies to last me well into the middle of next year.

I didn't see the lady again; it was the cashier, who had seen the whole hullabaloo from her vantage point, who reminded me once more. We discussed the fear of talking on phones. Neither of us knew the name of a condition like this.

It wasn't until I googled the fear of speaking on cell phones that I found it was called telephobia.

Especially since many of the signs of telephobia apply to me, I felt especially sad that I had let exasperation get the better of me in the store with the lady.

One never knows another's story until one has walked many miles in another's shoes.

I know that.

And it is the Christmas season...goodwill to all.

I can only hope I will have more patience with my next encounter which might disturb me when I am intent on something...

And that I have learned a lesson about myself and my own fear of cell phones.

Christmas shopping. 

I guess it's true.

It does bring out the best and the worst in us...


  1. I can SO relate to this. I have a bad case of telephobia and now I have a name for it. Thank heavens for caller ID. I never answer my cell phone or my landline unless I see a familiar name pop up.

  2. Marion, this made me laugh, I think you were very kind. I have a fear of talking to strangers on ANY phone, I even hate to call the phone company :-).
    P.S. Your package should arrive any day, not sure if you received my emails...xoxo

  3. Marion, what a great story!! I've never, ever heard of a fear of phones. What a hoot! (But not for that lady, I'm sure.) That was so sweet and kind of you to help her. 'Tis the season!!

    Love & Blessings,


  4. OMG - when I saw the title of this post I jumped to read it! I have terrible fear of the phone and usually will only talk to my mom, brother, husband or BFF. That's basically it!! Others think I am mad - and I am always hearing about people chatting away on the phone. It takes a great measure of determination for me to call someone - I'm not as bad if someone calls me. This poor lady - it doesn't sound to me like you were impatient - it sounds like you were very kind to her.
    Thanks for giving it a name - I'll remember that.

  5. Omigosh. That was just amazing. Poor dear. Good thing she found YOU. I hope she relaxes a little with the phone or her son is going to be frazzled all the time.

  6. Jan,

    Me too. It totally confounds me when a number comes up without a name attached to it. Heh! But then, I figure they can leave a message if it is truly for me!


    Phoning phone companies are the worst! They have a way of making me feel as if I am the guilty party for any complaints I might have. Actually, phoning any company with a complaint feels yucky...I'd rather email and write out what the problem is, any day!

    Yes, I did receive your emails, Annie, and I answered one of them. Thank you so much for sending the items so quickly...they haven't arrived yet, but not to worry. The mail is slow here.

  7. Marion,

    I think there might be quite a few people with telephobia, Marion. I'm not quite sure how it starts. It is such a weird phobia...what is it that could possibly happen when one answers the phone? And yet...anxiety rises when the phone rings, even if I know it is really silly!


    Oh, dear Mim! Thank you for being so honest. I know people around me who think I'm mad, as well. I'm not as bad as the lady in the store; I WILL answer if I have to, especially if there are people around me, heh. But I think it is a very strange phobia.

    I have thought back over the years. We began with a party line phone...there were three rings, two long and one short, that signified it was our call. That went on for a long time, then I think we finally got a number. My point, though, is that there was nothing that I recall that can have begun this phobia early on in life. But I remember running from that phone when it rang, even if it wasn't for us. Weird.


    Gosh. I never thought of her son...he sounded on the point of a melt down when I was talking with him. That's the never knows the story behind the story. His mother may have had a medical condition which made her son's worry more acute.

    It was odd and funny on the surface, however. I do hope I have more patience the next time something similar occurs. I just wanted her to take the phone so I could continue with my own stuff...poor lady.

  8. oh my!!! I only bring my cell phone with me in the car. Usually it stays there until the battery dies, then I bring it in to recharge for the next car trip.
    I refuse to talk while driving.
    I refuse to bring my phone into public places.
    I only have it in case of emergencies as I travel.
    If I'm in a public place and soemone answers their phone or makes a call, I roll my eyes and shake my head at them. I do!! Can't it wait? Do I have to hear your phone conversation? My only exception is if they're waiting for an important call that they can't afford to miss.

    I think her son meant well because he's concerned about her. But you can't force lifestyle changes on anyone.

    Good for you for helping this woman, even in your frustration. That's you Marion~ pure heart♥


  9. Your wonderful story is filled with the sounds, sights and textures of the season, including an interesting character and the reactions to her. I suspect the lady with the cell phone is probably not unusual, although I didn’t know it had a name. Everyday is interesting when from the perspective of an interested and observant person like you. Looks as if there will be lots of yummy baked goods in your kitchen soon. :)

  10. What a funny experience, and one I can relate to. Mim wrote: "It takes a great measure of determination for me to call someone - I'm not as bad if someone calls me." That's my story, too. I think my phobia began in 1997 right after we bought this house. I called to request an appraisal of how much it would cost to have a new fence erected, and after scheduling a date and time, I couldn't remember my new address. I told her one number, then another, my speech stumbling as I tried to remember the correct sequence, and the tone of her response let me know she thought I was an idiot. I finally told her I'd have to call her back, but I never did. I wrote down the new address and called a different fence company.

  11. telephobia? wow! i learn something new today.

    my mobile's speaker/microphone malfunctioned months after i bought it, sent for repair but it didn't do any good. i guess in a way it's big u helping me stay away from the radiation it emits, i now have to turn on to loudspeaker whenever i want to talk or listen to the other person on the other end. the good part is i'm less exposed to the radiation, the not so fun part, everyone can listen to my/our conversation in public! :)

  12. Your kindness may well help that woman be less afraid of her phone - for a lot of older people, technology can be daunting. Too bad her son didn't spend more time showing her how to use the phone. It would have saved both of them a lot of needless worry!

  13. With all the medical evidence that mobile phones & hands free phones are causing serious health probs (ie)brain tumors, perhaps Telephobia is not such a silly side~effect afteral methinks? X;-)

  14. Studio lolo,

    I'm with you. Here in BC, it is illegal to drive and talk, yet I still see so many people talking and driving at the same time. I've grown accustomed to people speaking on those phones wherever I am now, but years ago, I thought it was terribly rude. What really gets me, though, is when I'm talking with someone and the conversation gets interrupted by those phones.

    My phone will stay in my bag, sometimes charged and sometimes not. I've used it once since I got it. It is useful for hospice in case I need to call in.

    And I can't forget that the phones are so very useful in case of emergency.

    aka Penelope,

    Heh. Since Graham and I are both on a new diet, I'll be baking and donating it to various groups around town. I'm a little like my granddaughter, who loves to bake but doesn't like to eat it all that much!

  15. Oh dear the poor lady hehe I bet her son got an earful when she began talking in Italian. And I can imagine how every onlooker in the store had something interesting to share with others about their visit to store that day. Smiles*!*

  16. My first impulse would have been to throw it on the floor and stomp it and then say, "Problem solved," but I probably would have caught myself.

  17. Velvet Sacks,

    It's strange...I have a similar story involving changing addresses when I moved. For the life of me, I either couldn't remember the address or telephone number, or I transposed numbers. That had consequences for delivery of goods!!

    Each time, I felt embarrassed and quite small...less than, for sure!...and each time, I was using the telephone. Perhaps...who knows?...we have a sensitivity to the phones themselves? Something that short-circuits our thoughts? Heh.

    I guess there's a lesson for me, in that patience and compassion is so important when dealing with persons suffering from anxiety disorders.


    You'll have to get a new one when you move to New Zealand. Hang on to the dream, sweetie!


    You know, on my birthday in February, I will be sixty, which I don't consider old...yet it seems like my brain shuts down when someone tries to explain something to me. I learn by doing. By practising the art of answering the cell phone, hahaha! I will eventually become proficient. Just don't ask me what my cell phone number's been long forgotten in the tunnels of my mind, heheheheheh!

    As I was in the beginning stages of explaining to her that shutting it off when she goes out (since she had a handicap) might not be the best thing for her. You're right...more time was required;I saw some signs of early stages from Alzheimer's.


    Perhaps not...perhaps telephobia is a survival technique! I'm sending strong, healing vibrations your way, dear Nolly...

  18. Bimbimbie,

    Yes, I really don't believe her son could have gotten a word in! Once she began to talk and got going, the whole store heard her! She was really a sweet lady, underneath it all, I think.


    Heh heh! It made my telephobia even worse, I can tell you. What a bundle of frustration those phones are...and then there's leaving voice mail. Hahahahahahahahaha...nobody ever understands my fumbling attempts at leaving a recorded message...I become far to self-conscious!

  19. Telephobia / technophobia I think in todays world we have to come to terms with new technology. Ironically the older you get the more useful this technology is. I can imagine how frustrated a caller feels when they need to get in touch with someone and can't. I have a similar problem with my wife not answering her mobile.....especially when I'm out cycling and cant make it back for the agreed time. AHHHHH.

  20. Of course words that have phobia on the end refer to neurotic fears, so once we say that people who have qualms about technology are -technophobes, we can dismiss their fears without thinking about whether they have a rational basis.

  21. It's a good thing that she didn't need her pacemaker adjusted!
    I have just recently gotten a cell although I have few to call and don't really need it. Seems a waste, and I still wonder of the medical upside of repeatedly holding an electrical device, which can send a signal for several miles, up against my brain??

    First part of procedure done. Back the 17th for final part.
    Merriest of the Christmases Marion.

  22. Davem,

    Thank you for bringing up the other side. People who phone others and don't get an answer, especially when there is an important message, must get irritated. I have a land phone, however, one that speaks! And it tells me who is phoning, or what the number is, if there is no name. And just that little bit of extra notification makes it much easier for me to answer. I know, I know, it is odd!

    I think I feel self-conscious answering a cell phone when I'm in a store or an office where other people are around. I hear others have long, involved conversations on their cell, where everyone can hear exactly what is said. And I feel embarrassed for THEM and for the rest of us listening, as we all attempt to look as if we are not.

    Enjoy your cycling, Dave, you've certainly got the countryside for it...and maybe get a land phone that speaks, when you're trying to contact your might be just the ticket!


    Ok, Snow...I spent the whole afternoon thinking about your comment. It's human nature, I think, when once there is a label on something, it is easy to dismiss it. By naming something, the mystery is gone.

    Graham brought up a good point. Years ago, the telephone was not used the way it is now...for socializing. The telephone quite often let us know about bad news. That struck a chord with me...I remember, as a child, having a phone installed in our home. I remember, too, how that phone suddenly let us all know if someone was in trouble or had died. I may have carried some of that anxiety within me without knowing it was there.


    I'm so glad to hear from you!! I have been wondering how you are making out with that chemo. I stand in awe. It must be as uncomfortable as the dickens for you. I wish I could help.

    I feel the same about my cell. I'm glad I have it, for the simple reason of safety here in the North, and for calling in for Hospice if it is required, but I rarely use it for anything else. Guess I feel more grounded with the land phone. Or something...this whole subject is becoming weirder and weirder, heh!

    Lyle, I will certainly be sending good vibes and strong energy to you this Christmas. I know you will not feel well, but I, for one, am grateful for the meds you are receiving that will make you well. Hang in there, dear friend!! xoxo

  23. Marion, my first phone number was 65M2, and we were on a party line. Maybe it was the fact that you could never know who was listening in that made people reluctant to socialize.

    I loathe cell phones. We live on a bike/pedestrian path. I see people walking by together, one of them talking happily on a cell phone until the two are out of sight. I see people doing the same while walking little children, who are looking at the ground sadly as their parent. ignore them. I worry that they will grow up to think this is normal behavior. I sometimes tell people who are shouting into their cell phones (why do people talk so loudly into them?) to speak up so the other person can hear them better. When I said that I loathe cell phones, I wasn't kidding.

  24. OMG look at all these comments! i've now read this story twice and i've enjoyed every hilarious word. i think you were super kind, marion, really.

    i love my cell phone. i use it for work in the most convenient way. BUT i am not much of a phone chatter either.

    ah, wait, that is no longer accurate. guess what nudged me to phonetalk?


    i now have true blue friends who do not live near me. as you know, dearest precious friend, we write, we share, we sometimes talk!!!

    as for the son and his italian mother, i feel as though i know them both very well. he forced her to use something she never will learn because he didn't want to worry about her well being,and hahhaha he is going to worry more!!

    you write so so well, marion. YOU ARE A WRITER.

    love always,
    and talk to you soon &hearts!
    can't let the holidays come and go
    without a live hello


  25. This was funny. but the story was interesting.. thanks for sharing this with me! I need to shared this with face book right now! cheers

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  26. Hi Marion!! A wonderful story that I couldn't wait to finish reading, as usual! As for phones?? I've always been a geek when it comes to computers, but phones are another matter entirely. We use one of those Tracfones that you buy minutes for without a plan, and over the years we have accumulated thousands of minutes, because we never use it! It's only for emergencies. I have no idea how to use a "fancy" phone.

    Merry Christmas dear Marion.