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I Do Not Accept Phone Calls from People I Do Not Know

talking on the telephone

I don’t like talking on the telephone. My dislike for phone conversation stems from my days as a pastor. I would receive numerous calls from congregants who “urgently” needed my counsel or advice or needed someone to talk to. Never mind the fact that I had already worked a twelve-hour day, or that I had Fibromyalgia and just wanted to call it a day and crawl into bed. For whatever reason, I never developed ways to cut phone calls short. So, I would listen and listen and listen as people droned on about this or that problem, concern, or objection. Answering machines and voice mail finally allowed me to distance myself from callers, but by then I had developed a psychological aversion to talking on the phone. Today, I rarely talk on the telephone. Call me and you will get my voice mail. I make no apology for walling off my life from unsolicited, unwanted calls.

Every few weeks, a blog reader will try to reach me via telephone, Skype, Facebook Messenger, or Google Voice. After trying several times to reach me, these frustrated callers will email me and ask WHEN I plan on calling them back or WHEN is the best time to call me. The answer to both questions is NEVER. Want to contact me? Email me. I will do my best to respond to you in a timely manner. Yes, I am currently weeks behind with answering emails. If you need immediate help — most often counseling or advice — I suggest you contact a mental health professional. I will do what I can to help you, but I am not a counselor. My first priorities are self and family. (And I rarely talk to family on the phone. They know to text me if they want/need an immediate response.) “Bruce, you are selfish, thinking of only yourself!” Yep, and I make no apology for it. I spent most of my adult life helping others. I sacrificed my health and family for the sake of congregants and strangers. I don’t regret doing so, but I hope you will understand when I say that I have nothing left to give.

This blog is my offering to you; my way of helping people who are struggling with doubts about Christianity or who are trying to carve out a new life post-Jesus. Want me to address a particular issue? Please ask. Want to contact me? Please email me. I promise that I will, in time, answer your question or respond to your email. But, if you are waiting for me to return your phone call, you are going to be waiting for a long, long time. I hope you will understand. If not, or you are o-f-f-e-n-d-e-d, I don’t know what to tell you. I spent most of life living according to the J-O-Y acronym: Jesus first, others second, yourself last. I came to understand the acronym went something like this: Jesus first, others second, you don’t matter. Now that I am a humanist, I have learned that I must take care of myself first; then my spouse; then my children and grandchildren. And what I have left, I offer it to others. The best way to get a piece of what I have left is to email me.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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  1. Avatar

    Interesting to read of your ‘psychological aversion’ to the phone.’ Mine’s the same, and I don’t know many like me. It stems from when we got our first phone installed in my childhood home. I realise now I never went hungry or without life’s neccessities because my mother was such a good manager, but she had to be frugal, and calls were expensive, so I felt guilty for asking if I could call a friend and she glared at me and looked at her watch when I did so. Now, for years our phone package has included free calls, but I can’t convert to wanting to use it much!

  2. Avatar
    Brian Vanderlip

    Most calls I receive and I don’t get many because I don’t use the phone socially, are from scammers who tell me they are about to call the police to pick me up because I am in default at the tax department or someone has stolen my identity and I need to buy gift cards etc. to save my freedom. Life is so connected now with internet that the phone is used for almost everything other than simply chatting with another biped. This week most of my favors were asked of Siri: Siri, remind me of the dentist. Siri, can you open Settings please.
    My phone is just a little computer I carry around and is very seldom used as its predecessors were….

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    When I get a call from someone I don’t know, my first question is “How did you get this number?” (My number has been unlisted for the entirety of my adult life.)

    I also have a zero-tolerance policy on phone solicitations, and regularly cut off donations to charities that have the audacity to phone me.

    If you phone me, you had *better* be family, friend, confirming an appointment, or passing along some medical information. All others are subject to a NSFW chewing-out followed by a receiver slamming down.

  4. Avatar
    Steve Ruis

    Sir, we are kindred spirits. I have never like telephones for whatever reason and phone messages that drone on and on without getting to the point got erased really quickly. I tell people to email me and few even try to call me any more.

    Emails are wonderful in that I have a record of what you “said” and I can skim it, or delete it, or respond to it, etc. If a conversation becomes long, I have the complete thread of “he said-I said” in case of misunderstandings.

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    I answer landline calls with: “Hello, caller, you are on the air! What is your favorite kind of sex with animals? Caller, the topic today is sex with animals.” We have to have a landline for our cable. When the landline rings, the caller or number shows on the TV. So far, no caller has been someone we want to talk to. I do call my elderly father on that line, but he answers calls normally.

    • Avatar

      I briefly had a phone that we didn’t use. It came free for a year with the cable install. (Since then we’ve gotten rid of both the phone and the cable but kept the internet.) I didn’t give the phone number out, so when it would ring I knew for certain it wasn’t anyone we knew. So when scammers and solicitors would call I’d answer in a creepy voice, “I can smell your cunt from here!” Then hang up. Best line from Silence of the Lambs if you ask me.

  6. Avatar

    I despise talking on the phone and only do it for work and if my kids or husband call me (or the school). My father-in-law still doesn’t get it even though I have told him repeatedly that I don’t like talking on the phone and to please text me instead. He makes all kinds of comments about “you never answer your phone” and I comment back “you have to text me if you want something”.

  7. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    My husband hates the phone because he has hearing issues. He prefers email, and then gets frustrated sometimes because he doesn’t get responses in helpful timeframes. I have finally taught him to text me if he wants my attention immediately,

    For myself, I simply don’t answer the phone unless I know the caller or I’m expecting a call from that area code. Even that isn’t foolproof, because most spam callers spoof local numbers now. We have a landline associated with our DSL internet service, but seldom use it, so I tend to ignore incoming calls on that line altogether. It has voicemail. Much easier not to answer than to find a polite way of telling them to eff off.

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    I am with you. I am self-employed and would spend half my days dealing with scammers if I answered everything.

    I have the same policy about accepting invitations in social media, especially LinkedIn. I would love to flay all the people who believe that collecting connections is a great marketing plan. Every single time I’ve accepted a LinkedIn invitation from a stranger, it turns into an hours-long ordeal of trading messages about a sales solicitation. And every time, I’ve disconnected from them.

    Stand your ground, Bruce,

  9. Avatar
    Melissa A Montana

    I have never liked the phone, dating all the way back to my parent’s ugly rotary phone stuck on the kitchen wall. I was the only girl in the family who did not spend hours gabbing on the phone in high school. I now have only a smart phone, and I ignore most calls as they are only scammers. I have a hard time texting, but I like it because I can schedule an appointment to phone my family when I want to talk, since I don’t know their working hours. We all have an agreement to text first to set up a time to talk, unless it’s an emergency. Then, if someone does call out of the blue, we know it’s important. I like smart phones because you can block numbers when they become intrusive.

  10. Avatar

    So I sub as a school nurse and in some districts I need to call the parents of the children who’re out sick. I love nothing more than just dropping my message on voice mail and being done. bonus when they don’t actually call me back but wait until the next day and talk to the regular nurse!

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    Ann Lo

    I love the Hiya app for blocking callers. Someone calls once, I don’t answer, and if they don’t leave a message they get blocked. Hiya also announces “suspected spam” or “fraud” which is also handy.

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      I’m not sure I like the idea of numbers that don’t leave messages getting blocked. I don’t reliably leave messages. Nor does my adult daughter. If I don’t answer she’ll assume I’m driving or don’t have service, she also knows I’ll call her when I see it. Same for my husband or the other daughters.

      I like talking on the phone with friends or family and I really love it when I get a text “Call me?” You can either respond with a call or a return text of when you can talk.

      Of course my frustration is when I can’t reach anyone to pick up a sick child, I leave messages everywhere then 15 minutes later the school office calls to say that Janie’s grandma is here to pick her up. I hadn’t even sent for her belongings yet!

  12. Avatar

    Preach it Padre!!

    About 50 years ago I heard someone say, “MY telephone is for MY convenience, not everybody else’s.” I stole this philosophy then (before caller ID and answering machines) and practice it to this very day. It’s fun to see people cringe when a phone is ringing and being ignored. I have spent my life refusing to dance to others’ tunes.

    • Avatar
      Karen the rock whisperer

      “MY telephone is for MY convenience, not everybody else’s.”

      This, this, so much this!!!

      I was originally a reluctant adopter of cell phones, but my parents were aging and I really wanted them to be able to reach me in an emergency. My ever-anxious mother rejoiced at this additional way to reach me, and would get very distressed when I didn’t answer the phone at first. Finally she admitted that it made sense to mute the phone while I was in work meetings, attending evening classes, etc., especially when I faithfully called back as soon as I could. But it took her awhile to get to that point, that my phone was for my convenience, not hers.

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Bruce Gerencser