Creative Destruction

April 29, 2006

Phone Etiquette

Filed under: Content-lite,Navel Gazing — Brutus @ 11:15 am

Phone etiquette has transformed in the past few years. I remember when exchanges used to be given as two letters and one number. (My childhood exchange is ST1, for instance). Now it's 10-digit dialing almost everywhere. That's not about etiquette, really, but a curiosity.

One change in etiquette came results from caller ID. I find myself sometimes answering the phone by saying the name of the caller, as in "Hi, John," rather than using the conventional "Hello." Of course, the first time someone did that to me, I found it rather jarring.

What has really surprised me, though, is when I've called someone, not left a message, and had them immediately call back, asking "Who is this? You just called me." Since cell phones keep incoming/outgoing call logs, the person called can now call up an unidentified number and ask "Why did you call me?" That's a rather challenging approach.

Another oddity for me is passing someone on the sidewalk who is apparently talking to themselves. Then I realize he/she has a Bluetooth earpiece and is on the phone. Worse, it's disheartening to be in the bathroom and hear someone in the next stall carrying on a phone conversation while, um, taking care of business. The privacy of the phone call, to say nothing of bathroom behavior, where one would step into a booth to close themselves off from the world, is nearly gone. It's also surprising the number and types of things a person will yell into a cell phone (to get over ambient noise) within the earshot of anyone around them. Goes without saying that a lot of phone talk is littered with profanity, as cursing has lost its offensiveness and many people can't communicate without dropping F-bombs everywhere.

So things change; I get that and expect them to. I'm curiously ambivalent about the things I note above. Disapproval comes easily to an armchair cultural critic, but in this case, either I don't care enough or I've already adapted like others.


  1. Brutus, agree. I have to confess that I despise phones in general. Even at work, I’ll take the elevator to another floor to visit a person face-to-face before I pick up the phone.

    Why? I just think the telephone is an inherently rude instrument. Mind you, I don’t mind when people call me, but I’m always hesitant to call other people, because in so doing, I’m expecting them to immediately interrupt whatever they’re doing just to talk with me. It’s rare that I have anything that urgent to say.

    And “call waiting,” of course, is the rudest goddamn invention ever visited upon mankind for its sins. Because of my wife, we have it, but I refuse to use it. Absent extraorinary circumstances, I’m unwilling to interrupt an ongoing conversation just to tell someone else I’ll call them back later.

    In short, I haven’t even adapted to 80’s phone technology, much less all the crap we have today.

    Comment by Bazzer — April 29, 2006 @ 12:54 pm | Reply

  2. Telephones suck.

    If I could get away with it, I would claim to all of my clients that I am mute, and can only communicate through e-mail.

    Comment by bobhayes — April 29, 2006 @ 4:05 pm | Reply

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