I have never liked talking on the phone. In recent years, I have come to tolerate it, but "improper" phone talking is still one of the top things that will send me flying into irrational rage. (But quietly. When I'm in an irrational rage I generally get really quiet. Which is also what happens when I'm tired or sad or happy. I'm kinda inscrutable that way.) It is second only to putting weird sauce on my food without asking.
Anyway, I decided that I am going to articulate my Rules for Talking on the Phone. This is mostly for my own amusement, since people who get it tend to get it instinctively, but who knows? Maybe this post will actually educate someone. Hope springs eternal and all that.
First point: There are two kinds of phone calls. Only two. This isn't like the chief weapons of the Spanish Inquisition.
The first kind of phone call is The Social Call. You may indicate that you wish to make a social call in one of three ways:
1. Plan the social call in advance. This is the most desirable way. To do this, you send an email saying something to the effect of, "Hey, it has been a while since we talked. Why don't I call you at a mutually convenient time and we can catch up?" Several additional emails are then exchanged in which you and I decide upon a mutually convenient time. You then call at the agreed-upon time. If I really like you, I might tolerate a bit of lateness (say, half an hour). Only my very nearest and dearest can get away with forgetting or getting busy and calling back the next day to apologize, and even then I will probably yell at them for making me think they were dead and/or hated me. (That is why I also do not tolerate lateness for in-person meetings.)
2. Leave a message. "Hey, Megan, it's X. I was just calling to say hi. Call me back when you get the chance. Bye." Please note that this message should be less than 1 minute long. Some people pay per minute for their phone plans and don't want to listen to you tell the answering machine about your day.
Oh, and LEAVE A PHONE NUMBER. Sometimes it is difficult for me to look up your number for various reasons. Especially if you are, like many of my friends, a highly mobile twentysomething who might have changed your phone number since the last time I called you and forgotten to tell me. If I am not 100% certain that I can still reach you at a given number, I will spiral into a heap of useless anxiety and you will never hear from me again.
(Exceptions to this rule: My family and my in-laws, when it is obvious that they are going to be at home. If you want me to call you back on your cell, LEAVE A PHONE NUMBER.)
3. Call the phone and get a live person. If it is me, skip the following step. If it is not me, say, "Is Megan available?" When I pick up the phone, say, "Hi, it's X, I was just calling to chat. Are you busy?" This is the least ideal method, because even when I say "Sorry, I'm busy right now, but maybe you can call back later" you will probably ramble on for five minutes before finally saying, "Oh, I'll let you get back to your thing. Talk to you later."
In order to avoid 3, you should really not even try 2. Just stick with 1.
The second kind of phone call is The Informational Call. This covers a variety of things. For instance, you are calling to inform me that you cannot make it to my party. (Ha ha ha. This is a funny example because I don't host parties.) There is only one rule for informational calls:
1. Communicate the piece(s) of information and then end the call.
Do not tell me "Hey, I was just calling to say I can't come to your party, I'm really sorry" and then ask me what I thought of the sports game last week. (That is also a funny example, because I don't watch sports.) Because that will lead to the aforementioned problem of talking for five minutes before I can finally hang up and go about my day. Also, it's irrelevant and distracting. If you call me and don't say you're calling just to chat, I assume you are calling to communicate one or more pieces of information. Most Irrelevant Talkers are nice enough to communicate the relevant information up front and then go off on tangents, but some like to bury 3 or 4 relevant points in 5 minutes of chatter. This is annoying, wastes everyone's time, and risks causing me to not remember the thing you actually wanted to tell me because you buried it in irrelevant tangents.
This also works in reverse. If I call you without specifically indicating that it is a social call, it is an informational call. Do not try to engage me in conversation; it will annoy me. For example, say you are my husband and I call and say, "Please pick up a gallon of milk at the store on your way home." (This is a funny example because my husband doesn't drive home from work. He takes the bus and I pick him up at the bus stop.) The only correct response is, "Yes, dear. Is that all?"* I will say "Yes" and you will say "Okay, I love you, goodbye." And I will say "I love you too, goodbye." The end. See how easy that is without all the extraneous chatter? And now you will remember to get the milk, because you will not have been distracted with other shiny pieces of conversation.
*Or possibly: "I am racing the zombie apocalypse and can't possibly stop; I was just about to call and tell you to retreat to the underground bunker."
If you forget this rule and I call to say "Pick up the milk" and you start telling me about your day, you are not permitted to get all bent out of shape when I talk over you to say, "Sorry, I have to go, the toddler is trying to put tape on the cat again." (This is a funny example because I don't have a toddler or a cat.) It's not interrupting if you monologue without regard for other people's time. That's a rule. It's right in Megan's Dictionary of Useful Terms under both "interrupting" and "talking incessantly." Look it up.
If these rules seem too draconian to you, you can always email. I love email. And if you should happen to annoy me via email I can just delete it and you never even know. Everyone wins.