I know birdie will understand. And plenty of other people too, judging from previous phone phobia-related comments.
At home I’m not that fond of picking up the phone, but actually once I’ve dialled the number and got through to whoever-it-is I’m wanting to talk to, I’m usually OK. However, here I’ve got not only the sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach in anticipation of picking up the phone and talking to someone who may or may not be expecting my call and who may or may not be interested in speaking to me, but when someone does eventually answer (who may or may not actually be the person I want to talk to) I then have to explain myself in another language, which is *much* harder on the phone than in person because I don’t have the benefit of facial expression to help me out (on both my part and the person I’m speaking to). I find it’s much easier in person to communicate in another language – I’m more relaxed, and am not translating every word as I go along as it’s easier to factor in non-verbal elements in order to get the gist of what’s being said. On the phone I’m so busy trying to make sure I catch every word (and for some reason it feels like people talk much faster on the phone than face-to-face, though that’s probably just me) that I’m aware that I’m not really picking up the more subtle nuances, and also it’s much easier for me to make a mistake in what’s being said.
Today I phoned someone, whose number had been given me by someone I’d met but who wasn’t able to be interviewed himself but who recommended this other person. Unusually, he had also had the foresight to give her my number, and so she had an idea who I was and actually phoned me first (I don’t usually have this luxury, it’s often a cold-call to a total stranger), but as I was in an interview at the time my phone was switched off. I returned the call the same day (yesterday) but she had left the office and there was nobody there. So, heart in mouth, I phoned her again this morning, got her this time and she has agreed to meet me later this week.
However – although she has given me a date and time, she has not specified where, but told me to phone her again on her mobile tomorrow evening so that we can arrange that. If I was doing this in English I’d find it much easier to ask her to specify a place there and then, but in a foreign language (even one that I’m reasonably good at), when I’m on the phone and flustered it’s much easier to just say “yes of course, thanks very much” – I need to talk to her much more than she needs to talk to me, and my language isn’t good enough to smooth out any diplomatic issues that may arise from being any pushier. So now I’ve got to go through the whole thing again tomorrow! Argh!
This scenario isn’t actually that unusual. I’ve found it quite frustrating that people will give you snippets of information, or partially agree to something, but don’t give all the required information in one go. Another example, over the weekend I emailed someone whom I had been told by her colleague had done a study in an area of interest and relevance to my research, to ask if I could interview her this week. This morning I’d still had no response, so I phoned her this morning too (heart in mouth, the usual thing), to find that she hadn’t actually done that research at all but had contracted it out so didn’t think an interview would be useful. When I asked her about the contracted out research it turns out there was a report done, which she was happy to send me in another email – but why couldn’t she have just said that in a return email, rather than wait for me to chase it up by phone? It doesn’t seem to occur to people to offer solutions that are not exactly what is being asked for but which could be just as helpful. Likewise, other people say they will let me know their availability for an interview, but won’t tell me there and then, so I have actually put off contacting other people to arrange things in the meantime in case I have to drop everything in order to finally get the interview I’ve been after since I got here two months ago. If I don’t hear soon that’s another phone call I’m going to have to make. Sigh.
Ooh, this has turned out a bit more ranty than I intended it to! I must be tired!