I did it. I picked up the phone and made the call to the decorator. There was no one there. Worse than that, there was an answerphone. Aaghhhh! I'm never ready with a message, so there's only one option. Hang up. Yes, I'm one of those people you all really hate - the one who hangs up without leaving a message. What do you expect? You put me on the spot, expecting lucid comments, coherence, intelligibility, relevance. Madness, sheer madness. I'm more or less psyched up and ready to talk to a human being, and then suddenly wrong-footed by a machine.
Right, get myself ready for a message. Filter out the salient details that need to be given. Name, number and a brief summary of who I'm trying to contact and why.
Phone again. Aagghhhh! Someone has answered and it's not the decorator. (I know this because I know he is called Jonty, and this is definitely a woman's voice). Damn it. And now, she's wanting to know if she can take a message. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. All thoughts of a message have fled for the hills. Instead I ask when Jonty will be available. After 5:30. OK, I can phone back, I tell her. What? What have I just done? Why has my mouth betrayed me like this? I had a chance to funk the phoning and get him to phone me and now here I am committed to another phone call. Idiot! And there's a chance I'll still phone at the wrong time. How soon after 5:30? How late is acceptable? When will he be having his dinner? Do they have children to put to bed? Why, why, why, why, why didn't I leave a message and let him call me?
Right, LittleBear is settled in front of his dinner, so he might to stop talking for a few minutes. It's 5:45, I can try phoning again. This time I get him. I manage to be more-or-less coherent, and he agrees to borrow the key from our local friend and go round to have a look later in the week. He'll call me back. Yay! I did it! Yay! First step overcome.
A week passes.... no word from the decorator... when is it OK for me to phone back? ... how long do I wait? ...am I just hassling him if I call? More fret-driven days pass and finally I call back. The answerphone! Aaaghhh! OK, manage a message this time. After all, asking a machine why he hasn't got back to me yet is easier than asking him in person. Less confrontational. Phew! Got off lightly this time.
He calls me back, he's going round at the end of this week now - he didn't get a chance last week.
The end of the week comes, and I hear the phone ring while I'm putting LittleBear to bed. I foolishly assume GrannyBear, who is downstairs, will answer it. I forget that our phone is rather strangely located - lurking on a bookshelf behind the television, and GrannyBear doesn't manage to find it before it stops ringing. I come down, and find there's a message from Jonty. Damn it! I missed the call. I try phoning back, but there's already no-one there, so I leave the standard "just replying to you message" message.
All weekend I hear nothing. And the next week. Oh no. What was he phoning for? To say the place is an abomination and he won't touch it with a bargepole? Why else would he not be replying? He's avoiding me. Did I say something really, really stupid in my message and my brain has just blanked it out? It's Easter. Maybe he's on holiday? How long do I wait? Is it OK to leave another message? What shall I do? Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn.
8:30 on Saturday morning a week later and Jonty phones. Phew. He'd lost my number. Idiot me. I should have phoned again. Anyway, it's all fine. We sort out some details and I finally think to ask if he has an email address. Turns out he doesn't but his wife does, so I send a long email with all the things we'd discussed and every possible means of contacting me. This is more like it. The written word, where I can stop and think about what I'm saying, edit it, review it, add extra information that I'd forgotten when I started. I relax into the warm bath that is emailing.
But... three days later and there's still no reply to the email.... when is it OK to start worrying? Can I send a follow-up email? No, he needed to contact a builder for the plasterboarding, so I need to give them a chance to sort out when they can work together. How long do I wait? What if the email went into a spam folder? Should I phone to check he got it? Is that weird? How weird?
And that was one phone interaction that I needed to undertake. It took hours of worrying, picking up the phone and putting it down again, writing notes and lists to myself, carrying a notebook around in my bag just in case I felt strong enough to phone from work (of course I didn't). It's a miracle anything ever gets done in my life. It might explain why I went for DIY as a decorating technique for so many years. I didn't particularly enjoy it, but it was cheaper and less stressful than trying to interact with any tradesmen.
Next up: getting my hair cut. I'm on a roll now, so I phone and get an appointment for Thursday morning. I can take the day off work, have my hair cut, go shoe shopping for the wedding I'm going to, have a nice lunch, all without LittleBear. Lovely. And then I check with my boss, and no, it's not lovely. I can't have the day off, there's a new deadline and it's Thursday. So now I have to phone and cancel the hair cut. Which is about 4 times worse than phoning to make an appointment in the first place. And I can't just put it off indefinitely - I have to phone before Thursday. I'm almost in tears at the thought of it. Tomorrow. I'll phone tomorrow.
Might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb: phone the shed builders. First call - phone engaged. Second call - answerphone. Nope. You're not getting me that way. Third call - someone answers. Aaaghhhh! She says "Good afternoon" and then I start randomly blethering. I wasn't really expecting someone to answer so I manage something along the lines of "Oh, erm, yes, what? Oh, you're there. Hello? Good morning, oops, no, it's afternoon isn't it? Yes, ah, I was thinking about a shed." Well done, PhysicsBear, making a sound impression there.
My life could be so much easier if it weren't for the fact that it's me leading it.