I reserve the right to grieve and mourn, but I just have to accept the inescapable fact of it. Phone calling etiquette is dead. Never again will I hear the sweet sound of a caller introducing themselves politely before they start asking me questions.
I have this strange notion that a phone is a point of entry to my home, like a door. I owe no caller the obligation to open the door, or answer the phone, or even to turn on the ringer/bell/beep/ringtone, especially since 95% of all my callers are people I don’t need to talk to, don’t want to talk to, and wish they’d take me off their calling list (which I tell them … politely, for fear they’ll just add me to another one).
I’m on the do-not-call registry, but that does not prohibit so-called “not-for-profit” organizations from calling to ask me a lot of personal questions (a “survey”) or begging for money I don’t have.
Until now, when I gave callers the courtesy of answering, I inflicted on myself the pain of the ridiculously unrealistic and thus unfulfilled expectation that they will say something like, “Hello. My name is Jane, calling from the Ajax Company. May I please speak to Dennis?”
Instead, they introduce themselves like this: “Is this Dennis?” or “Is Dennis there?” Even if they don’t give their name first, wouldn’t it be just simply polite to say, “Hi. May I speak to Dennis, please?” After I got up off the floor, I might reply, “So God is NOT dead!”
Would they knock on your door and ask who you are before saying who they are when they know danged well you want to know who they are before they ask who you are? Maybe these days they would. Don’t do it at my door. Seriously. DO NOT ask me who I am when I open the door to see who you are, the only reason I opened it.
Just watch the first 90 seconds, if you can.
So before I accepted the death of delicate dialing, when they asked if I was myself, instead of simply saying yes, I punished myself further by asking, “Who’s calling?” As if I thought I had the right to know. I entered the conversation already annoyed even before they said another word. Thing about being annoyed: it makes you even more uncomfortable than it makes them, if they care at all, unless you have the chutzpah to politely tell them that they are annoying you. Then you might feel some satisfaction.
“Get outta here ya noodge, you’re annoying me.” Well, maybe a little more politely.
So I’ve finally come back to earth from my dream world, and decided to just tell them what they want to hear. Yes. It’s me answering this call.
I had a friend who had the right to not introduce himself because we were close and knew each others’ voices. When I answered his calls, he’d often say, “Hey! It’s me!”
I answered, “It’s me, too!”
Now I’m working on fun ways to answer the phone for those 95% of human callers who always start the conversation by asking me to identify myself.
Got any ideas? Please share them. I need help with this.
For a long time now I’ve just stopped answering the phone. No matter who you are, if you don’t leave a message, you don’t want to talk to me. I like it because then I get to call them back on MY terms, on MY schedule, IF I want to. And I didn’t spill my popcorn getting to the phone.
Seriously, why should I jump up and answer the phone just because it rings? I can tell you what will happen if I don’t: nothing. If it’s my mother, I’ll get up when I hear her start talking to the answering machine.
Once when Mom reached to set the wireless phone back in its cradle, she didn’t realize the line was still open — being unaccustomed to pushing a button to “hang up” — I heard her say, “I don’t know what to say to him.”
Nowadays I don’t really get up at all. I just reach for the nearest handset. But it still interrupts the movie or blogging. Soon, when we all get implants, I’ll just think my phone PIN, hear a beep, then say Hello, without moving my lips, eyes, or any other part of my body. And we’ll all be atrophied and incredibly fat web surfers.
I also tried turning off the ringer and lowering the answering machine volume to be inaudible during a good movie. Then I’d forget to turn them back on the next time I was EXPECTING a call from someone I WANTED to talk to.
One day I kept the house land line phone wireless handset (i.e., the phone) on the car roof while I cleaned the car interior, expecting a wanted call. I never heard it ring, nor the answering machine, because the ringer was off and the machine was in the house. (I want the option to have the answering machine audible on the handset, the base, or both. Then I can screen my meaningless calls when I’m out in the shed.)
I found out I missed the call when I came inside and heard the message notification relentlessly beeping at me every minute. That’s another thing I don’t like being compelled to act on, just because some stranger sneaked electronically into my house and turned it on, and didn’t leave a message anyway. I want the option to tell it to beep only every five or ten minutes, or just silently blink once every half hour with a bright light that hits the ceiling, so I don’t miss it. (When I’m King of the World, a lot of things are gonna change.) I forgave myself for missing the call by admitting I probably wouldn’t have heard it from inside the car anyway, over the vacuum cleaner and the radio blasting Eve of Destruction.
In those pants it looks like Barry McGuire was on the eve of procreation.
I still like the idea of just not answering. It’s not so rude to expect them to leave a message for me. They don’t know I’m right there, washing dishes and cracking up with Car Talk, neither of which deserves to be interrupted for a politician trying to tell me why I should vote for them.
Do they really think ignorant swing voters, party line voters, single issue voters and non-voters (that’s just about everybody) will be lured enchanted to the polls by robocallers? I’m not an ignorant voter, so I hate it even more when my preferred candidates call to say I need them. I don’t need them, but I have to vote for them because the alternatives are even bigger boobs, or a war criminal like one we had recently, who says waterboarding is not torture.
The sensation of drowning is a good interrogation method to make ME say whatever I think you want to hear. I won’t hold it against you. Neither will my friends, family, or those radical religious fundamentalist violent torturing kidnapping decapitating terrorizing brainwashed tribalists back home. You’ll have taught them their lesson by making a scary example of me. Off with your head, they say.
Still, now and then I feel sociable and want to answer the phone, like maybe on Halloween. I will no longer trouble myself with asking who is calling before admitting who I am. I never say, “No, it’s not me,” anyway. (Funny thing: when I make them identify themselves first, after they tell me who they are, they don’t follow with, “So, this is Dennis, right?” They forget their opening question.) But I’d like to have fun answering the phone, too. If I can’t beat them, I can laugh at them.
In the movies so many people answer the phone with their name or title. Mostly cops and spies. “Morgan.” Or “Special Agent Smith.” Or, “Sergeant Hammer.” Sometimes they say their full name. “Mickey Short.” That only works if you have a nifty name.
Then people with caller ID see who is calling. I gave that up. First, I never use my cell phone. It only works within a two-mile radius twenty miles from here. At home there’s no point in having caller ID because most callers mask (or even falsify) their number, because they know I don’t want to talk to them. If it’s somebody I won’t mind talking to, it doesn’t matter if the phone tells me who they are before I answer. Chances are I would let it roll to the machine anyway.
By dropping caller ID, voice mail, and other needless things, I have unlimited dialing throughout the U.S. for $40 a month, guaranteed locked-in price for the life of this phone number. Plus the price of an answering machine. Beat that.
For my cell phone, I paid $39 for the device six years ago, and $25 every three months for air time. I never use it, so I have so much accumulated time that last month they gave me a year “for free,” without even asking for it. I never get called on it. No reason for it. So when it rings, it freaks me out, it makes me jump half out of my mind. I pull over and answer it without even looking to see who is calling.
It might be fun to just answer the phone with my name, boring as it is. It could be fun because it’s boring.
Yeah, I could just completely cave in and answer their question before they ask.
Sometimes I could answer their question, “Hi, this is not Dennis because I’m not feeling quite myself at the moment. Call back later.” Click.
Or answer with something really nonsensical — this will really throw them, stun them, astound them — “Hi. This is Dennis. What can I do for you?” They’ll be dumbfounded.
By the way, have you noticed how cute it is that we still say, “Hang up the phone?” Hang it where? Why?
I refuse to budge on one aspect of this phone etiquette thing: when I call somebody, and get to speak with a human being, I’m going to say, “Hi, this is John Smith. May I speak to Jane, please?” or some similarly unwarranted verbiage. (I’m a high-functioning misanthrope, and I really want to charm Jane out of her pants. Just kidding. About the Jane thing. The other part is true.)
I might even be so ridiculous as to close the conversation with something silly like, “Have a nice day,” which we all know is just a way of saying, “I’m going to hang up now.” At a cashier, for those of us still using them, it means, “Next, please.” (One day when I finished at the store self-checkout, I patted the machine on the scanner and said, “Have a nice day.”)
Some day I’m going to fall right over because a cashier concludes the transaction with, “Enjoy your yogurt. I love that strawberry-banana one.” Something meaningful, something they really want to say and really want me to care that they said it.
I got it, I could answer the phone: “Hello. Who’s calling, please?” I can at least be polite about it.
If the caller then says, “Is this John?” I’m gonna be annoyed, and give them, “Who dat say who dat when I say who dat?”
Have a nice day.
But wait! There’s more!
- Tim Carleton’s Opus No.1 should inspire mass protest by phone users (9/14/2014) – (My own post on the topic) My thanks to Gary Conkling for Rock Star of Hold Music, where I learned about Opus No. 1, Cisco’s phone hold music by Tim Carleton and Darrick Deel. Carleton and Deel created the piece in 1989 in their garage … Continue reading
- Learn how to speak properly on the phone when Pope Francis calls you out of the blue, in an article from the National Catholic Reporter. He actually does that. For real.
AND MY FAVORITE ARTICLE ON THE SUBJECT — I think I’m in love — LOADED WITH GREAT ADVICE AND FUN FOR EVERYONE: Telephone Etiquette; 10-rules-for-good-phone-etiquette by Tonya, who says, “I’m a mom. What’s your super power?” in her great family matters blog, 4 Little Fergusons. Tonya has phone etiquette rules that most people would not think of, great ones, and fun to read. Here’s just a little taste of why I like this blog post so much. It says, “… we had a house rule that we didn’t answer the phone during supper. This was back in the 1980’s, and guess what, we didn’t even have an answering machine to record that missed call. OR caller ID to know who we missed! HOW DID WE STAND IT?!?!?!?!? [and the author maintains this policy in her home to this day] … It’s like we think we owe those people an immediate hello, even if we are in the middle of a bedtime story, or family time. Honestly? We don’t! … Be empowered, you control the phone, it doesn’t control your life!” Yay, Tonya! Read the rest and have fun