Here are some more ways that Alex Bell has diminished our quality of life by inventing the telephone:
1-- The concept of saying you're going to call someone back, and then not doing it.
This has become a lifestyle for many contemptuous people.
I myself would never indulge in such a practice.
If I say I'm going to call someone back, no matter how busy I am, I make time to return that call as expeditiously as possible.
If it's someone I don't want to call back, I never say that I will.
There is virtually no one who has my phone number that I don't want to have it.
So this rarely comes up.
If I can't return a call at length right away, I will at least quickly send an email explaining why I haven't called back yet.
Does this make me better than other people?
At least in this regard.
I have dealt with people whom I have known for only a matter of days, who had expressed interest in one or more of my projects, told me that they would call me back, who simply dropped off of the face of the earth within a matter of less than a week.
2---Setting an established pattern of only accepting calls.
Never making them yourself.
I'm talking about someone who is ostensibly a good friend.
This establishes a mind game.
You're telling the caller "I don't need you to be my friend. Perhaps you need me to be your friend, but I don't need you to be mine".
When at his house, any time the phone rang, and this was before Caller ID, he would virtually throw a tantrum.
That's how put off he was about having to answer the phone.
I once called him on it.
Not on the phone. In person.
I said "You know, there are lots of times that I have to call you on the phone. Is this how you prepare to talk to me? Considering that you never want to call anyone yourself?"
Another example of a mind game and a power play.
3---Establishing ground rules for the phone call, and having them come back to bite you in the ass.
I met a well-known female writer at a party.
We were contemporaries.
She asked me if I would phone her, because, in her words, "I want to know all about you".
I, never having trouble talking about myself, accepted her marching orders, and we agreed on a time to chat on the phone.
I did about an hour and a half on myself, without even breathing hard.
And I don't mind saying that I was fascinating.
And I got my laughs in all the right places.
At that point, rather perturbed, she asked "Aren't you even the least bit interested in me?"
Indeed I was.
And I did ask her a few questions about her along the way.
But apparently they weren't enough.
And I said "Hey, you set the ground rules, lady.
I was just following orders. I'd be perfectly willing to spend the next hour and a half listening to you talk about yourself."
But by this point, her enthusiasm had already waned.
She said she'd call another time.
4---Not wanting to pick up the phone until the other party is on the line.
This is predominant in office situations when someone who perceives himself to be more powerful than you calls your office.
What invariably had happened was that my secretary would tell me "Mr. Big Shot" (I'm using a euphemism) is on the line.
I would pick up the phone, only to have his secretary say please hold for "Mr. Big Shot"
And I'm sitting there holding on a call that I didn't initiate.
This is another form of power play.
It's as if he has a badge in his desk drawer that he occasionally wears that reads "I'm Important"
After about a dozen times that he pulled this one on me, I instructed my secretary that the next time he called, and his secretary put me on hold, she was to stay on the line, and when he got on the phone to talk to me, to tell him "Please hold for Mark"
Then I'd wait about thirty seconds while he was fuming, and then pick up.
It served as only minor revenge.
5---Calling someone you know well and being told "Look, I really don't have time to talk now", and offering some excuse why they are too busy for you.
At this point, I'd feel the need to impose "The Sinatra Rule"
The Sinatra Rule was much more prevalent when Frank Sinatra was alive.
But let's use our imaginations and hypothetically assume that he is still with us, as formidable and imposing as ever.
Can you imagine anyone, if Sinatra came calling on the phone for whatever reason, saying "Gee, I'm sorry Frank. I really don't have time to talk now. My wife just got home and we have dinner reservations, and we're half-way out the door"
I can't imagine anyone doing this.
I can't imagine saying this to anyone who I want to have my phone number.
You're in essence telling someone how much less important they are than Frank Sinatra.
Or perhaps anyone.
I would go out of my way to not make the caller feel that he or she was imposing on my time.
Perhaps that's just me.
But let's suppose that you are really swamped, and your wife just came home, and you do have dinner reservations, and you're half way out the door, and it's not Sinatra on the phone.
Then don't pick up the friggin' phone!
There is a saving grace that can be used if you do.
You can immediately make note of the time, and say "Look, I really don't hve time to talk now, but when can I get back to you?" and work out a time to return the call promptly.
And you follow through with it.
That takes the curse off of everything.
Without that extra step, you are simply telling the caller precisely how much less important he or she is than Frank Sinatra.
Feel free to disagree with me on any of this.
But I doubt that you'll make a dent.
I feel that it is all a matter of courtesy and respect.
We haven't even touched on the cell phone.
Improved technology has only brought about new ways for otherwise civilized human beings to act inexcusably rudely.
We'll deal with it next time.
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- mark rothman
- Hi. I am, according to my Wikipedia entry,(which I did not create) a noted television writer, playwright, screenwriter, and occasional actor. You can Google me or go to the IMDB to get my credits, and you can come here to get my opinions on things, which I'll try to express eloquently. Hopefully I'll succeed. You can also e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Perhaps my biggest claim to fame is being responsible, for about six months in 1975, while Head Writer for the "Happy Days" TV series, for Americans saying to each other "Sit on it."