I recently began scheduling a weekly phone call with a friend who lives far away. I don’t love talking on the phone. In fact, I kind of hate it and am generally guilty of multitasking to the point of rudeness when on the phone. But these calls are special. I make space for these calls to happen.
It happens that this friend is also a collaborator on a couple of different major projects, and we use our weekly calls to keep each other on task and perky. Of course we deviate into more personal stuff, or digress about our anxiety over the civil unrest in Libya, Tunisia, New Jersey and Wisconsin. But mostly these are working calls, progress checks – if we had clients not ourselves this hour would be billable.
As I was musing the other day about hand-written notes, a phone call can do things that a lot of new media “communications” cannot. There’s something about the immediacy of the voice on the phone that permits the illusion of closeness. And, if I allow myself to step away from the computer while on the phone, there can be something meditative about the time spent sharing this way. I like to take my coffee into the living room and sit in one of my overstuffed chairs and close my eyes while I talk. This isn’t always possible or practical – seems that our conversations often require an email to be sent, a file to be uploaded. But when it is possible, it’s lovely, and all the more so because it allows me time to unplug and just chat.
When I lived in New York, this same friend and I would take long, peripatetic walks through the Village. We were flâneurs, circumambulating the city, finding poetry in peculiar places, agitating each other to think and feel and do in ways we might not have done without each other’s encouragement and stimulation. We’d often hold hands or link arms while we walked and talked, only breaking contact long enough to make large, emphatic gestures, or point to something particularly exciting in the architecture, or hidden against a stoop. I wore out a lot of shoes in New York. These walks would often end with prosecco in a little nook of a restaurant we’d uncovered while strolling. Or a pastry and coffee at one of our regular favorite places on University Place or down in SoHo. These weekly phone calls have taken the place of those strolls, and my whole week is the better for them.
A lot of social media, though it pretends to be facilitating “conversation,” really seems to just facilitate glibness, and a sort of smug pithiness that forecloses real discussion and debate. A phone call can allow a little more provided, that is, both parties make space to allow communication to happen. So, friends, when you’ve got a minute, give me a ring. I’d love to hear the sound of your voice.