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  • Purva Grover

I sorely miss the phone etiquettes of the times that were...

To begin with, I miss the telephone. The rotary dial phones, of course. The corded landlines and its cordless version; sometimes the old, bulky, brick resembling smartphones of the last generation as well. I miss picking up the phone and saying the simple word Hello. I miss playing the guess who game as well. Not knowing who was on the other side of the line had its charm. When did hey, hi or yes became threats to hello when it came to personal communications or when did good morning, how can I help you replace the hello in professional environs? I don’t have the answers. Of course, I like the caller-identification — it has more pros than cons. And I love my app-loaded smartphone as well. But, I can’t help co-relate the fact that perhaps simpler means of communication translated into better etiquettes — I sorely miss the phone etiquettes of the times that were.

Look around and you’d agree that there’s definitely a thing or two (if not more) that we need to re-learn about phone mannerism. Just yesterday, I was in the middle of a conversation on the phone, when a work associate felt it was appropriate to talk to me (face-to-face), whilst I was well, talking to another person. I used my hands and eyes to signal the same, however, this person left only after she’d finished what she had to say. This being just one of the many instances! Now, raise your hand if you are surrounded by people, who look into their phones multiple times — be it when in a meeting, an intimate dinner, a social gathering, a chat at the taxi stand, in the clinic, et al. Worse, a few of them wear their smart lives around their wrists, and brazenly check the e-mails that pop-up there. Only if it all ended there, sigh. For, there are those, who attend a phone call just to say they can’t talk as they’re in a meeting or driving. Yes, that is courtesy, but it doesn’t sound like optimum utilisation of time. On occasions, I have also been put on hold or speaker — simply, for the other party wishes to check on an urgent Facebook notification or WhatsApp forwarded meme.

Of course, grammar and communication skills are suffering as we speak, but that’s another story. Oh yes, then there are those who insist on having phone conversations in the elevator, knowing extremely well that the network does get erratic as you commute up and down the buildings! They make you party to their lives until you know that there is no milk in their refrigerator, they have a meeting to attend the next morning or the cat food in the mart just got expensive. Over poor mobile signals, they shout-repeat broken sentences, until the network completely dies on them.

Can we change and behave better? Or is it an unthinkable task? I am a phone addict too, but there are few practices I have adopted. I know when to leave the phone upside down or not reach for it. I practice restrain when it comes to forwarding (sharing) articles, images, videos, and more. Also, if I don’t receive a reply from someone the minute my WhatsApp shows double blue ticks — I keep my calm. I wait for my turn to speak. I value the time and money of others, free calling time included. Most importantly, I am not that person, who asks for WiFi passwords at people’s homes. For the lack of better words, I use my data wisely. I take pride in my phone mannerism. I am convinced a crash course in the arena can also make us better people.


This piece was first published in Khaleej Times.


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© 2018 by PURVA GROVER