The second ring was sudden, causing me to start so involuntarily that I felt the blood rush to my temples. It took all my will power to get out of bed, and in a half groggy state, I dragged myself to the reading table where the phone was now lying precariously on its edge – reaching it in time for the third ring.
The first had jolted me from sleep – the kind that you don’t want to be woken from because you’re smiling, giggling or laughing through some sweet dream – with my eyelids fluttering open in confusion. I had shrunk in bed in fear of the shadows cast by my window curtains on the walls around me, barely recognising my bedroom. After only a moment of restlessness, though, I drifted back to sleep.
But my caller was persistent. He was an old acquaintance that I had recently reached out to for assistance on a project and was now calling “just to say hello.” Wait … what? That was it? There was no urgent, crucial, life and death message he had to deliver? And yet, it was a quarter past midnight!
Feeling like someone had suddenly stuck hot needles in my eyes; I endured nearly a minute of torturously idle phone conversation to give my caller a benefit of doubt. I quickly realised that he was just one of those people with bad phone manners who act like other people are unaffected by their actions – you know, the ones that call or text at odd hours, even when it’s not urgent and it interferes with something as important as work, sleep, or food.
They are the ones who never – I mean, never ever -acknowledge our missed calls or messages; the ones who never call but frustrate us with endless flashing; the ones whose yelling over the phone in commercial buses or at the mall almost blocks our ear drums; the ones who are perpetually chewing or lying down when we call; the ones who always interrupt us when talking or chat us up without as much as a greeting but start messages with “So I was thinking …” “If you could …” or the ones who do nothing but mumble and grunt their replies “huh uh” “uh uh”; the ones who call us and ask rudely, “Who’s this?” (They called o, not the other way round!); and, of course, the ones who don’t spare our phone batteries because they just won’t stop calling, which explains why, as soon as we turn our backs, we see sixteen, seventeen missed calls from the same person on our phones with a critically low battery (Arrgh! *Grits teeth, tears out nails, pulls out hair …* we’d pick if we were with the phone).
But aren’t we all, in fact, sometimes guilty of displaying one teenie tiny form of bad phone manners or another, especially with the quick, easy access to apps like BBM and Whatsapp on our smart phones? I know I am. I might have even committed the same “crime” I accused my caller of committing at some point in my life, even though I like to tell myself that I was calling or sending IMs to a close friend or relative. A couple of times, too, I have caught embarrassing stares from a bus load of people after revealing private details to them while shouting over the phone (Sometimes, we can’t help being too excited and emotional, even at the risk of sounding rude or breaking the rules of phone etiquette).
Yes, phone etiquette! You probably thought you knew all the etiquettes there were to know, social, table, bathroom, corporate, business etiquettes, but never really considered phone etiquette because the thought of following some stringent rules when using your phone isn’t very appealing. Yet, phone etiquette, like all etiquettes, isn’t just a list of rules but entails principles that guide people, in this case phone users, in being respectful and considerate of others. In short, think common courtesy when you think of phone etiquette, it’s really that simple.
Remember, too, that displaying bad phone manners says a lot about you. People assume that if your phone manners leave a lot to be desired, then you are likely ill-mannered in other aspects of your life. It’s the same way you show good manners in your normal, daily activities by greeting, stepping aside for an older person on the stairs or on a narrow aisle, saying the little but important things like “thank you”, “please”, “sorry” and “excuse me” that you extend courtesy to others when using your phone. If you can’t be courteous when using your phone, how would you be in other situations?
Besides, do you really want to be that person, the one your friends avoid because you’ve been labelled rude? Once, I sent an IM to a friend on BBM at a decent hour, he replied 24 hours after I saw the D (Delivered) and R (Read) signs with the words, “Imagine, your message just came in.” Of course, I never sent him a message after that. It wasn’t only because he was lying through his teeth; it was mostly the sheer discourtesy with which he responded. He was rude and didn’t make any attempt to disguise it. True, we can’t always reply messages or return phone calls immediately because we’re caught up in work or other things, but courtesy demands that we acknowledge them as soon as we get the chance to and if necessary apologise for the delay. Again, if you’re rude to people, they would be rude to you too. So treat others the way you want to be treated. Be polite and courteous, not rude. It might be hard in this crazy, fast-paced world, but it isn’t impossible.
Photo Credit: Foto.com.ng