Brothers and sisters, and you in the cheap seats, it is time that I came out of the closet and 'fess up here and now. I believe in washing my dirty laundry in public, which is why I have a blog, innit, and today is the day for me.
Those of you who know me well will know that I have a bad case of arachnophobia, which put another way, means I petrified of araks. Such a phobia is no good for those of us gainfully 'employed' in buildings that are old dark and a little dusty in places, and to be honest, some of the araks that I have seen have not only had tattoos, but were of a dimension to warrant widened seating on an aeroplane. But it is not my irrational fear of araks that I have come here to discuss. No.
I am deeply, irrationally, and annoyingly fearful of telephones. I am not referring to the actual article, as a Nokia handset doesn't in fact send me into paroxysms of hysteria or an effervescence of self-flagellation. No, it is the activity of the telephone that does it for me, and let me tell you why.
Once upon a time, I didn't mind the 'phone ringing. It would be my nan or a friend (the former who would batter on for two hours without taking a breath), and as such a source of joy. Then retail happened. And not only retail, but retail management. At that point I acquired my new fear for a new generation.
In retail, and in particular in a sales environment, the telephone ringing was rarely the harbinger of joy. Indeed, if your sport of choice was a heady and masochistic desire for aural abuse, then a shop telephone was the place to be, and you would be oft pleased. In flooring (my former retail environment), we were paid to advise and then relieve the punter of sums of money which, in my case, peaked once at £17k per order. In flooring, such sums are paid for goods that have been untested, of varying shades to the colour swatch, fitted by human hands which are not always perfect, and with expectations at levels that would trouble the Vatican Army. At the least level, the telephone ringing would be a hapless soul demanding the whereabouts of their order, either in terms of the large lorry crossing the English Channel or else in the back of a battered white Tranny when the stuff is to be fitted. The answer, with every step of best preparation and expectation management, was insufficient and lacking for Mr & Mrs Customer, and so it began - the tirade. The abuse. The name calling.
Then it would turn eight-thirty and the day would begin in earnest.
Once, some chap was chasing a cheap mattress that he had bought a week prior and that was on a fortnight lead time. When reminded that the nasty foam sprung object was still a week away, his retort was, I kid you not, that it would have been better if I had been in one of those two Towers (for this call took place on September 12th of that notable year). For retailers, such abuse is commonplace and much lamented, but it also stops us loving the fruit of the telephone.
Evidently, it is akin to some social-phobias and anxieties that can emerge - and telephobia is not an irrational fear of a voice in the ear (after all, I have several in my head), but of ridicule and abuse. It is closely related to glossophobia which I don't have (thankfully, in my trade).
The upshot of years of retail 'phone abuse (often perpetuated by the upper ranks within the organisation too, I might add, and who would ever like being called 'crap' and 'shit' before the doors are even opened), is that I really truly struggle to take or make a telephone call to or from anyone. I would rather insert, slowly, white-hot copper wire into my pupil than take a call - which is inconvenient in this mobile-age and in my line of work. I have to know who it is before I answer it (and the cost of Caller Display was a non-negotiable, even before food). I hate 'phones. Simple. Where telephone calls are required I am the procrastinator extraordinare, risking (and probably achieving) the reputation of one who doesn't care enough to call, or else that I am disorganised and forgot.
Well this is my confession. It is altogether worse.
...and Oxford customers were the worst by a country-mile, by the way (from a range of thirteen stores that I managed across much of the south of Britain)