Yesterday The Washington Post had a piece on new phone etiquette. I agreed with just about every word.
I’ve never liked pop-in visits, whether in-person or telephonic. Perhaps it’s inherited from my dad, who would bellow whenever the phone rang the same exact sentence: “Now, who could that be?!” And if it was “the dinner hour,” you prayed it wasn’t one of your dumb friends whose parents didn’t teach them any better.
Eventually, caller ID answered “Now, who could that be?” But only to leave us with another question: “Now, what does he want?”
And now that we have the technological capability, it’s only polite to text first that you’d like to talk, and specify what it is you want to talk about.
Of course, the older generation will never follow these new rules any sooner than they’ll stop putting two spaces after periods. And some members of my generation will call out of the blue—including me, occasionally—but we’ll only call one another. The idea of calling my eighth-grade niece, for instance, just to chat—that seems exactly as presumptuous in the context of modern life as driving six hours to Des Moines and walking into my niece’s homeroom unannounced. Here I am!
(Never liked surprise parties, for the same reason. It’s all about the giggling pre-party fun for the surprisers, without any consideration for the nerve-jangled embarrassment of the surprisee, who must fake complete delight for the rest of the night, and also the rest of his or her life.)
So I gotta say, I like the new phone etiquette, though I’m not sure it goes far enough. I look forward to a day when there’s a way to ask someone for permission to send them a text, rather than our current barbaric habit of sending that text out of the blue and having it barge right through the recipient’s iFrontdoor without knocking.
And then to have my phone send an auto-reply: “No. Either not in the country, not available or not in the right frame of mind. Try back another time? Thanks!”
Maybe AI can solve this one. If it can, I take back every bad thing I ever said about it.
P.S. And let’s not even get into voice mail, about which a colleague of mine once said, “I’d rather people send me messages via carrier pigeons with explosive diarrhea, than have to listen to another voicemail.”