Friday, October 1, 2010

Phone Manners

Talking on the phone is about one of my least favorite things to do. I am much more of an email kind of girl. I don't like to interrupt people by calling their phones. In fact, until recently, I almost never called anyone's cell phone unless it was a dire emergency.

When our dad got the first cell phone we had ever seen, it was very special. We grew up with a rotary phone, so any phone with buttons was neat-o. And this phone was in a bag! Mounted on his dashboard with Velcro! He needed to be able to hear it when he wasn't in the truck, so he wired it into the horn so it would honk when the phone rang. As I think about that, I wonder if it honked when the phone rang as he was driving down the road. That might be embarrassing in town. You can't really explain that to the cars in front of you at a stop light. "Oh, don't mind me, that's just my phone ringing! I wasn't suggesting that you should run that red light."

If he was working cattle or welding or building fence, he would hear the horn honk and run toward the truck. You can imagine how annoyed he would be if you called frivolously. He would drop his work and, worse yet, the honking would scare the cattle. We eventually developed a "code" of calling and letting it ring twice, then hanging up and calling again so he would know it was one of us. You can imagine the annoyance if we called just to let him know that supper would be ready at 6:00. It's not really worth dropping what you're doing to run to the truck just to find out that supper is going to be ready at the same time it's always ready.

For this reason, it is imprinted onto my soul that cell phones are for emergencies only. In fact, my dad only gave out his cell phone number to trusted family and business associates who would not abuse the privilege of knowing such sacred information. My grandma never had his cell phone number. She didn't use good judgement when determining whether something was a normal situation vs. an emergency situation.

I do realize that it's quite common to call someone's cell phone in a non-emergency situation in 2010. In fact, I know lots of people who have dropped their home phone service in favor of having only cell phones. It works for lots of folks. I'm still not a fan of cell phones, though, because I think they encourage rude behavior, but I do acknowledge that they're a fact of life.

I talk to clients on the phone a lot, and I have an unofficial policy of never calling anyone before 9:00, accounting for time zones. Personally, I think any decent human, especially someone with professional aspirations, should be awake by 9:00 on a weekday morning. I realize that's a pretty general assumption, but it seems like a fairly reasonable time to me. I also try to avoid calling people after 9:00 pm. People with children cringe when the phone rings just after they have put the kids to bed.

I try to be considerate when using the phone, and I would appreciate the same courtesy in return. However, I have learned that is rare. Today I called a professional acquaintance to discuss a legitimate business matter, and left her a voice mail. Thus, I assumed she would call me back at her convenience. Ahhh...I love voice mail! I don't actually have to talk to anyone, and they still know what I needed to tell them. Perfect!

She called me back immediately thereafter, but pretty much ignored me the entire time we were on the phone. Apparently she was just getting out of her car at her house, had just reached the front door and a potential garage sale customer arrived. The garage sale isn't today; the customer just wanted a preview. At the same time, this acquaintance was trying to let her dogs outside and found that a relative had made an unannounced visit and was waiting for her inside. I was the fourth person she was trying to communicate with at one time. That's not going to work. Don't call me back unless you can actually talk to me! It's one thing if I interrupt your family dinner and you answer the phone, but it's another thing completely if you call me while you're distracted.

Speaking of interrupting your family dinner with a phone call, if your children are screaming, your dogs are barking, you're eating dinner, and trying talk to me at the same time, you're not focused enough on any one thing to accomplish anything. It's rude, ineffective, and stressful. If you can't talk, don't answer the phone. Also, if someone else calls while we're talking and you would rather talk to them, don't put me on hold. Just tell me you have to go. We'll talk later.


Kendra said...

I couldn't agree more! I was just griping about this the other day when someone returned my phone call and then put me on hold because she was in the middle of something. I wanted to scream FINISH IT and call me back!

Carina said...

I have the same phone issues that you do, I think. To me, phone calls exist so that specific information can be exchanged. If you want to chat with someone, go out for coffee or have them over for dinner. That's one of the reasons that I love texting. I can send the information to them, and it's entirely their call when and how they respond.

BKWilliams said...

I love it when someone calls me for information about a job. I begin to give them the information and they say "wait I have to get a pencil and paper" grrrrrrr They should have been ready when they called!