Anyone else ever frozen silently in place, hoping against hope they’ll think your signal has dropped? Just me, then…
Forget coronavirus: the other pandemic we’re all contending with at the moment is a sudden influx in phone conversations, Skype chats and Zoom calls. Everyone wants to talk to us, and we’re more popular than ever before.
Yes, it’s lovely: we know that. However, there’s no denying that it’s draining, too. Particularly if you are, much like myself, an unfailingly polite people-pleaser, because it means… well, it means you’re pretty much destined to spend hours on the phone, whether you like it or not.
Why? Well, there’s no easy way to end a conversation anymore. Think about it: you can’t say you have to run, because they know you’ve got nowhere to go. You can’t pretend a relative has popped round, because… yeah, social distancing. And you can’t say you have to nip to the shops, because it will open up a lengthy debate about whether or not it’s ethical to visit your local supermarket right now.
There are, however, solutions to this problem. With that in mind, here are some tried-and-tested ways to end an awkward phone call.
Excuse yourself to accept a phone call
“Oh sorry,” you say, screwing your face up as you stare at your smartphone. “It’s my mum/nan/boss/someone else who smacks of seniority. I’d better take this!”
This one is pretty much foolproof, because nobody can make you feel bad about it. Just be sure that you a) keep your smartphone turned away from your webcam, and b) continue the ruse as you’re signing off. Maybe hold your phone to your ear and say hi, hold a finger up to your laptop screen apologetically, that sort of thing, yeah?
Whatever you do, be sure to go into this performance channeling the same energy Meryl Streep has channeled in every single role she’s undertaken throughout her illustrious film career.
Pretend you’ve lost signal
If you can do so without detection, all you need to do here is disconnect your device from WiFi. Otherwise, you have two options. The first, infinitely trickier to pull off, is to freeze silently in place, for as long as you possibly can, like you’re playing a high-stakes game of Musical Statues (remember: to blink is to admit defeat. Do not blink!).
The second, of course, is to keep speaking over people and insisting you can’t hear them.
“Can you hear me? Can anyone hear me? I can’t hear anything, this is so annoying. I don’t think anyone can hear me so I’m going to log off now… but it’s been great!”
Pretend you’re out of juice
Again, this requires some clever sleight of hand, but I believe in you. All you need do is shut your device down and voila! You’re out. You’re free! Just be sure to send a WhatsApp afterward apologising and blaming your pesky technology for ruining what was otherwise a wonderful phone call.
Tell them you’re hungry/tired/desperate for the toilet
You’re a human being with needs, so use one of those needs as an excuse to get off this never-ending phone call. Otherwise, what’s the point of being human, anyway?
Blame someone else in your household
A dog or baby is a good shout because they can’t deny your claims that they’ve shit all over the carpet, but a partner or housemate will do, too. Maybe they want to use the laptop. Maybe they’ve turned up unexpectedly with pizza. Maybe they’re having a moment of existential dread and need you, only you, right now.
Whatever you decide, just be sure you inform your accomplice as quickly as possible. You need them on your side, remember.
Live out your horror movie dreams
Again, some sleight of hand and acting skills required, but this is a goodun: spin round and stare at something off-screen. Say something like, “Oh my god, what the fuck is th…” and then exit the Zoom chat. Do not answer any incoming calls. Let their imagination take over. And don’t worry about freaking them out: everyone is bored right now and they’ll no doubt appreciate the distraction.
Or, you know, you could be a grown-up about it
Sure, elaborate lies and performance art is fun, but nothing beats behaving like an adult. About 10-15 minutes before you intend to wrap up, say something like: “Just want to give you a heads up, I only have about 10 more minutes before I have to go!”
It’s a great way to let the person on the other end of the phone know that your hard stop is coming, it’s considerate, and it implies you’re trying to make the most of the situation.
It’s also one hell of a less awkward than saying, “Hey, I have to get off the phone right now, sorry bye!”
Trust me. I know.
Main image: Mimi Thian on Unsplash