For someone such as myself, having a verbal-only conversation is a little like sticking pointy things into the end of my fingers, or perhaps a better analogy might be; a little like having trapped wind in the lower intestine while surrounded by a group of fainting goats; letting loose might, after all, cause disaster in either situation. The reason for this discomfort - for myself at least - is that I find it difficult to read a person's true feelings or intent when I can only hear an electronic representation of their voice.
During one of my incarnations (in this life; I mean professional incarnations...) I was introduced to the concept of non-verbal communications or NVCs as those of us schooled in such matters like to say with a faintly arrogant sneer, only to find that we're not the only one in the room to be so well-educated... NVCs (see what I mean?) make a lot of sense to me. I'm a very visual learner (it needs to be written or drawn in thick red crayon before I REALLY understand it) and so when I was taught about how much we communicate through posture, expression and gesture, many pieces of my telephone allergy puzzle fell into place.
To me, a telephone conversation is a little like two voices in the darkness trying to dance with one another. Unless I know the other person really well (and even then it can be hit-and-miss), gauging the other person's true meaning is a much more drawn-out process than it would be if we were face to face. I flatter myself by believing that I'm a rather accomplished judge of character (I reckon that I'm 90% right 95% of the time), but if I've only had a 'phone convo (see how I threw in that slick abbreviation to prove how down I am with the street scene, bro? Now THAT's what I'm talkin' about...) with somebody, all bets are off. If I have only spoken with them on the 'phone, I don't even try to kid myself that I have a clue about this other person - it doesn't count as a meeting.
You may think that I therefore enjoy things like 'Skype' or that old program 'netmeeting'. I've used both programs, they both perform the same basic function, and I'm sorry to say that they don't really fill the gap. A disembodied head on the screen is only part of a solution, mostly because a lot more information is subliminally (try saying that properly after a few drinks!) taken in through body posture and of course gestures. That leaves us with verbal and facial expression over the airwaves. Sadly, the typical computer camera/webcam isn't up to the job, and of course the much fabled HD broadband is a myth when it comes to trying to have one of these 'videophone' chats. Broken, pixellated images, sounds like dragon farts and broken synthesizers - and an occasional total lack of both sound and vision - tend to provide unintentional and unhelpful punctuation to such intercourse (ooer, I just used the word 'intercourse'; that might get me a few extra hits on the site).
All in all, communicating across vast distances (anything more than a day's walk counts as 'vast' in case you had paused your day to wonder about it) is a messy business. As a result, while I seemingly become more and more anti-social, I might just follow the example of one of my oldest and dearest friends and resume sending handwritten letters - there's something quite special about receiving such a thing, after all.
In the meantime I shall continue to use my phone sparingly; the mobile phone is a text device and little else, really, and actually I'm OK with that so long as it doesn't become an obsession or something that takes over normal conversation. The house phone really serves two purposes: firstly a way of saying 'hello' to my very distant mother, then allowing her to talk at me and then saying 'goodbye' when she's finished - if I can get that word in before she puts the phone down after deciding that the 'conversation' is over. The second purpose it fulfills is to allow strange entities (aliens? - see I just used another word to get lots of extra hits; I'm gettin' handy with this kind of thing!...not) to try to engage me in discussions about my credit card account or my life insurance by first asking me how my morning, day, week and year are going, and then talking non-stop from an appalling script written by an idiot with a degree in 'up-selling', until I aggressively hit the 'end call' button, teaching them a harsh lesson which they apparently immediately forget.
I think I may have to buy a telephone rather like the one pictured above - at least then I could hang up on people with much more emphasis, tuck the receiver up against my head properly (what IS it with modern phones that are like bars of soap?) and hit the receiver carriage repeatedly like they do in the movies if the line is bad (thus thoroughly disconnecting the call). The caller would also hear a satisfying 'click-clunk-brrrrrrrr' noise when I hang up, and thus know in their hearts that I meant it...Hmmm...this idea is getting better and better by the minute.
Oops, gotta go; the 'phone's ringing...