By Lynn Ashby 31 August 2015
Luigi gets off the plane from the old country and soon buys a Lotto ticket. Lordy, he wins $10 million, and purchases a big house like his cousin, Vito, has. Luigi tells the decorator, “An here I wanna a phone booth wit a beeg statue of da blessed Virgin Mary wid a beeg halo over her head, justa like my cousin, Vito, has.” When the decorator asks why, Luigi replies, “Causa every time da phone ring, Vito say, ‘Halo? Statue?’”
Oh, excuse me, my own phone is ringing. “Hi, remember when I told you about that, and what I was going to do with it? Well, it just occurred to me he should….” I ask rather testily, “Who is this?” No doubt such a situation has happened to you, too. You answer the phone and the party starts talking, as though your last conversation had ended only a few seconds ago, and now he or she is resuming it. This is not only arrogant – like the caller is so important that you should immediately know who it is by the sound of his first few words — but unfair. The other party knows who you are, where you are unless you are answering on your cell phone or smartphone or hearing aid, and what was under discussion. Caller ID helps, if the caller doesn’t have an unlisted annoyance.
This person has violated the first rule of phones, there are many others, and you might want to forward these rules of the rude to end such abuses. When calling, identify yourself in some detail. Have you heard this? “Hi, this is Mike.” Mike who? Your best man, the postal carrier, your bartender or perhaps Mike the enforcer who is reminding you about that 2K you owe the Bones & Crunch Lending Co. Mike should add, “Mike, whose car you sideswiped in the consignment shop parking lot and then sped away. Say, you’re a hard person to find.”
We have all had to endure those unending answering machines’ greetings. It begins with music, like you want to listen to the love theme from “Patton.” Then: “Hi, you have reached the Waspkiller home. We are not here now, but don’t get any ideas. There are more video cameras in and around this house than the NBC newsroom. Sandi Sue is at her tattoo parlor. Junior will be out as soon as the bail is set. Mom is attending her anger management class and Dad is at his job at the car wash. So please leave a short message. I mean, we don’t have time to listen to some blah blah blah about your problems.”
That greeting is much too long. For your own answer in reply, keep it short but, again, identify yourself, and speak slowly, plainly and preferably in English, especially when leaving a call-back number. Then say it again. “We will return Fluffy if you put ten thousand, repeat, ten thousand…” Have you ever had to play and replay a phone message to find out who is calling and what the call-back number might be? When leaving a message, be sure you’ve got the correct number in the first place. This really happened: I was gone and returned to hear a phone message: “Carlos, J.J. can’t make it in today, so you need to fill in for him. Be here at four.” Next message: “Carlos, just to remind you that you need to be here by four.” Final message: “Carlos! It’s four thirty! Where the (fill in the blank) are you?” Poor Carlos probably showed up for work the next day, all smiles and enthusiastic, and promptly got fired.
Businesses have incoming phone calls down to a science, so that their employees never have to actually speak to a customer. The companies give you options, none of which are what you want. Banks are bad: “Press 1 to talk to another recording, 2 for more music, 3 for our latest interest rates – we love a good laugh — and press 4 to book a brazen daylight robbery.” Here’s another: Have you ever talked to a real human being at your phone company? I only get: “All our associates are currently dealing with etc. etc. Because of the high volume of calls etc. etc…” I could call at 6 on Christmas morning and be told there is a high volume of calls. When calling my cable company to report an outage and cannot get online, it tells me to go online to report an outage.
We now come to the newest phenomena in communications, iPhones, smartphones, phones that you can stick in your ear, up your nose or carry in your holster, so that you can multitask, like working a crossword puzzle while closing an incision. Remember that when using one of these gadgets, no one else cares what you are saying, typing or hash-tagging. So be discrete. Just pretend you are dealing with Ashley Madison, and would prefer no one else knows. To get some privacy and not bother others with your connective transaction, try to find an empty space – like Waco. You can also go to your garage, sit on your front-yard curb or just go without bathing for a week, always good in July or August.
These instruments have apps — short for apprehensions – which give you the weather, stock reports and photographs of other people with too much time on their hands. They show home videos, maps and let you play games while waiting at red lights. (I love the bumper sticker: “Hang up and drive”) You can also get an app that locates the nearest teenager to show you how to use the other apps. These phones are sort of the Swiss Army knives of electronics.
I don’t have any of these new gadgets, and prefer to either use semaphores or shout. My one phone is in a booth with the Virgin Mary wearing a big halo.
Ashby is on hold at firstname.lastname@example.org