I'll never forget that voice


When I was a child, I was terrified of the phone. Often when I made a call, everything was fine. I’d dial, the other person would pick up, and I’d talk to them and then hang up.

But sometimes, there was this incredibly loud beep, and then a terrifying woman with a soulless robotic voice would come on and scream into the receiver that there was some kind of problem: that I’d dialed incorrectly, that the number was not in service or what have you.

From my juvenile perspective, this was a worst-case scenario so scary that it was to be avoided at all costs. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d done something awful and was being punished. My intentions were pure - I hadn’t meant to do this thing I was getting screamed at for. I didn’t understand who would even want to yell at me for what they seemed to think was a terrible insult against telephony itself, but it seemed like she was always waiting to spring out with her deafening scolding and beeps to punish the most innocent and minor offense. I couldn’t explain myself to her. I was apparently in trouble no matter what.

This fear was 100% irrational. There was nobody on the other end to disappoint. The voice was loud because there was no way to adjust the volume on your phone at the time, so they had to make them loud enough to still work for people who were hard of hearing. The message was not soulless and robotic, it was deliberate and clear.

But I didn’t understand that. And to this day, I will take basically any excuse I can muster not to have to talk to someone on the phone.

It’s amazing how a bad experience can affect you like that, and stick with you all those years later.

What tiny experiences from your past are still affecting you today?