Telephones are one of my least favorite things in the entire world. I have one, and I will happily text people until I wear my thumbprints off, but I basically don't answer any voice call that I'm not explicitly expecting. It drives people bats sometimes, but anyone in my personal life who really needs to get in touch with me knows how to do it without a phone anyway. If I have to use the phone for business, I just grit my teeth and deal.

This is because I learned a long time ago that ringing phones never mean anything good. As batshit as my mother is, her mother was worse. Much worse. I watched her make my mother's life hell right up until the day she died -- which is a story itself -- and one of the ways she did it was via the telephone.

How often do you call your children/parents? Every day? Every few days? Once a week? My grandmother phoned my mother constantly. When I say that, most people assume I mean "calls every day for no good reason, managing to interrupt stuff". I do not. I mean that my grandmother called my mother first thing in the morning and kept her on the phone for hours. Any time my mother managed to get off the phone, my grandmother would call back within an hour or two. There were messages on the machine when she got home from running errands. Quite often, the woman would call back and leave another one while she was checking the ones that had accumulated while she was in the grocery store.

Yes, I do understand that this is completely insane. I understood this was completely insane at the time, too. I remember being maybe eleven or twelve, and arguing with my mother over it. We'd gotten a Caller ID box -- that's how long ago this was, the phone company had to give you a little box with an LCD screen to show the name, because there was no such thing as a phone with a CID display yet -- and whenever the phone would ring, my mother would check to see who it was. Once a day, it was my father, calling in just to say a quick hello from work. Occasionally it was whatever one friend/sibling my mother was talking to that week. (She cycled through them. There was always someone she was furious at, one person who was her BFF, and a handful of people she just didn't think about.) But mostly it was my grandmother.

She stood there, my mother, gritting her teeth and sighing loudly and sometimes making a loud strangled NNNNNNRGGHH noise, staring at the ringing telephone in the corner of the kitchen. I pointed out that we had an answering machine. It was about two inches to the left of the thing she was growling at. I told her that if it were an emergency, someone would leave a message, because that's what answering machines are for. Later, when I was a teenager and had given on doing these things politely because profanity seemed to get more attention, I told her that if she didn't want to talk to her mother, she shouldn't pick up the fucking phone.

She always did. God help me, she did. I can't really blame her for that; I have first-hand experience how difficult it is to convince yourself that your mother really is driving you crazy in the concrete, medically-evaluated sense, and you shouldn't interact with her. On the other hand, it's entirely her fault that she took it out on the rest of us every time her mother wound her up. Even if she managed to escape the dreaded phone call, she spent the rest of the time snapping at anyone who got within sight or sound of her and whatever book she was reading as furiously as she could, in an effort to block out the knowledge that her mother would be calling back, and soon. I would have felt more sympathy for her if not for the fact that her customary perch for all the phone-crazy and book-reading was at the breakfast bar in the kitchen, about three feet from both the refrigerator and the door all of the assorted pets used to get out into the backyard.

When I left for collage, my mother slowly began to morph into her mother. By that point, I was already un-fond of telephones in general, but my mother started to use it to pick long-distance fights. She occasionally used it on other people, too. One day, she wanted to argue about something I didn't. It was something that was none of her beeswax, and I'd had it, so I told her that I wasn't going to talk about it, and if she didn't drop it, I was going to hang up on her. She didn't, I did, and then I went out to dinner to cool off. I came back a couple hours later to discover that she had called every single one of my friends for whom she could find a phone number in an effort to track me down and get me back on the phone. No idea what she told them. I seem to recall that one of them was Tommy, who functions mostly as my big brother, and was one of the people I used to play "My Mother's Insaner Than Your Mother," with in high school; I assume he explained it to everyone else, probably using the international twirly-finger gesture for 'this person has a great many loose screws'.

(Tommy's also one of the few people I can stand talking to on the phone for any length of time. Moggie, too, although she's a tech-head like me and we mostly type, and a small handful of others. Otherwise, I don't even like ordering pizza over the phone -- I'll do it online if at all possible.)

It got much worse whenever my mother was bored or anxious. Dad went on an extended business trip at one point, and was overseas for about a month. I got daily emails from him, and daily phone calls from my mother. Why they could not just sit there and email one another, I have no idea.

I eventually solved this by ceasing to answer the phone, ever, for any reason. I bought an answering machine, turned the volume all the way down, taped over the blinky number, and shut off the bell on the phone. My theory was that if they were calling to tell me someone was dead at 8am, then they were not going to be any deader at 4pm when I checked my messages. That worked for a while, until one time I decided I was going to take a weekend off of responding to my email, and opened it back up on Monday to find a normal (for my mother) email, followed by several less normal ones, culminating with one that said that if I didn't answer her right away she was going to call the cops out to my apartment to do a welfare check. I told her that if she pulled that one again I wouldn't answer her emails at all, as opposed to whenever I felt like it, and had a nice chat with the city cops to ask them if there was any way to put my mother on some kind of 'ignore' list.

The telephone weirdness occasionally caused problems. She has -- possibly had, sometimes she cycles through weird fixations, too -- a seething hatred of telemarketers. Prior to legally-enforced 'do not call' lists, she kept trying to fix it by calling up the phone company and arguing with them until they gave us a new unlisted phone number. It happened about once a year. She gave this new number out to no one that wasn't friend or family, and I really do mean no one. Like, she didn't call up the school district and change the contact number their files. Quite intentionally; from junior high onward, I hated school with a burning passion, and would take any chance I got to stay away from it. (I had about a 60% attendance rate my senior year of high school. According to their guidelines, they were supposed to auto-flunk me, I think. I can only assume that a combination of sense and a load of my teachers pointing out that it was obvious that my home life was hell kept them from doing it.) She got sick of the attendance office phoning her to find out where I was. This came back to bite her in the ass when my sister decided to drop out of high school, and got away with it for two solid weeks before someone finally gave up and phoned my father, whose work number hadn't changed for at least a decade.

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