I love being able to send e-mail; I hate making phone calls, especially cold calls. I don’t know why using the telephone is so difficult for me. My co-workers used to tease me that I didn’t even like calling to order pizza.
Calling someone I know personally isn’t as bad, but even then I worry. Am I interrupting them? Am I calling too early? Too late? And, of course, there are the times when I don’t want to talk for a long time, but I know the person I’m calling is a talker…and the call will last a long time.
As a writer, I often run into a situation where I need information from an expert. These are the most difficult calls for me to make. Not because I don’t think the person I’m calling won’t give me the information, but because I don’t always make myself clear or they hear certain words (like explosion or murder) and jump to conclusions. (Of course, that’s sometimes funny, but doesn’t always help me with my research.)
Also, with a phone call, at least up to now (who knows what the future will bring) I can’t see the person’s face, can’t judge his or her reaction to what I’m saying. I can’t do that with an e-mail, either, but with an e-mail I feel I can put in enough detail that the recipient won’t jump to those erroneous conclusions or (hopefully) will truly understand what I want/need.
This morning I had to call our local sheriff’s department. Actually I should have made the call weeks ago, but I’ve put it off until this morning. I went on-line and found a number for a sergeant in the marine division; however, when I made the call, the person who nswered said, “Dispatch.” (Oops) So I quickly told the man I needed a pr person or someone who could answer some questions for a book I was writing.
I was transferred, and this time a woman answered. Again I tried to explain who I was and what I wanted. Again I was transferred. This time I was connected to someone who could and did answer all my questions and even agreed to answer additional questions if they came up as I was writing the book. But there was a moment in the conversation where he hesitated (I think it was after I said murder) and asked if this was a true story. I quickly assure him it was fiction, but I wanted to have my facts and procedure correct. He was quite helpful after that.
So why did it take me so long to make the call? I don’t know, but I’m sure glad it’s over. I really envy those writers who have research assistants. On the other hand, I never know what little bit of additional information I’ll glean from a call, something I’d never hear second-hand, so I guess I’ll continue making cold calls, like it or not.