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Autism: Late Phone Call

30 Jan

People who know me know that if they are going to call me, they need to give me the details of the call: time, date, reason…

I don’t like phones. I mean, I really don’t like phones. It starts with the unexpected ringing. Loud noises. Never a good thing. Then there is the unexpected: who is on the other end of the line? Why are they calling me? Are they going to make me feel bad about something (like not sponsoring another child in the world who is struggling – which I would if I could, but…)

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Are they going to try to sell me something? Am I going to have to hang up on them, or find some excuse to get off the phone (like how people wanting to do surveys tend to choose the moment I am really busy making supper to call?) Am I going to end up resenting them?

Will I know what to say, or how to respond? My processing isn’t as fast as people seem to expect, so they get… annoyed, maybe, while waiting for my answers. That is why I like to know what the call is about – at least then, I can try to plan some things that I will need to say. Often I will write things down then.

Will I even be able to focus on the conversation? Likely not. Verbal is quite hard for me – that is why I prefer email. Often I will start saying something, and lose my train of thought – or I will try to listen to them, but a word sets off a series of pictures in my mind, until I forgot what they are talking about.

If it is important for me to remember what is being said, I will often have my clipboard with me so I can write things down as we are talking. That helps – but if I don’t know the call is coming, I probably won’t have that. Even then, if the person is talking too fast, I won’t be able to get the important things down – I am not good at note taking.

If they tell me they are going to call, it also gives me the opportunity to let them know if I won’t be available to answer. Maybe they don’t care if I miss them, but I will – and it will make me afraid to go out next time. Best to let me know.

On this day, I knew the call was coming, and I was prepared – or so I thought. We don’t have cordless phones. We did, but it broke, and the new ones we got to replace it were no good – I gave up on cordless for that reason. I suppose they expect people to be buying cell phones, or smart phones or whatever every year or so, and they don’t put much into cordless landline phones anymore.

Typically I have been answering in my dining room, and since I don’t talk to this person often, we end up talking for hours. The dining chair is hard, and I spend most of the time with my dogs trying to figure out how to get up on my lap, and stay comfortable. That makes it very difficult for me to concentrate.

So this time, I was ready! The call was coming at 1pm – we had arranged that. I went to my bedroom, and had my clipboard with me, and a good pen (and a pencil, just in case.) My dogs came to the room with me, and got lots of attention right before 1pm, so they were sleeping on their pillow on my bed.

I was prepared! Then 1pm came, and the phone didn’t ring. Did I somehow knock it off the hook? Nope. Was it plugged in right? Of course, if it wasn’t, the dining room phone would have rang. Did I get the day wrong? No – it was Thursday, and we had only arranged it the day before.

Every minute that passed brought more anxiety, until 15 minutes past the hour, I was in a full panic attack – sure that something was really wrong. Maybe she was angry with me. Maybe she was trying to figure out a way to say ‘no’ to my (really important) request. Maybe something happened to her. I started out really excited to talk to her – even on a phone – and ended up believing my world was about to come crashing down around me… again!

And then the phone rang, and we talked for two hours, and everything was fine.

I don’t think I will ever understand how someone can arrange for something at a certain time, and then be late for the meeting. It just isn’t who I am.

And if I am ever that late for something, or late at all, really – there is likely something very wrong!

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