Please Call Me At 793-Mumble

by Curt Kovener         

Back in that other millennium, I remember a grade school lesson on telephone etiquette. There was this old, black rotary dial phone (if you are under 30 you will probably have to Google it for a photo) and we were instructed and then had to show the teacher and the class that we knew how to answer the phone speaking slowly, clearly and distinctly.

Considering the difficulty I and a number of others who have voice mail or answering machines, perhaps a remedial course on getting your telephonic message across and resulting in a returned call is needed.

Granted digital answering machines, digital phones, cell phones with sometimes sketchy reception may all work together for technical difficulties, here are some suggestions to get a return call.

First, don’t tell me your whole life story. My answering machine will cut you off. It isn’t being impolite or disrespectful, it does that to everyone who talks too long.

If you call back to conclude your story, don’t start from the beginning. You’ll get cut off again and probably before or in the middle of telling me your phone number. (An important component in getting me to return your call).

When you leave a message just simply state your name, what it is you wish to talk about, then give your phone number…twice.

And it is not a crime to speak slowly and distinctly. We were given a tongue not to wag but to articulate.

It is frustrating to get a phone message plainly from a caller then when it comes to the phone number, they get the mumbles and talk too fast. “Please call Sally Jones at 812-XCFGHJmf”

There was one lady (at least I will consider her a lady) who wished to speak with me but I could not understand her phone number…even after playing it back several times. Thus I could not return her call. The next day she called again with the same unintelligible phone number and the same result from me. On the third day the lady was angry. “Will you PLEASE return my call at 7-9-3-X-X-X-X” she said most emphatically and plainly.

So I returned her call. But the first thing we talked about was her mumble mouth version of her phone number. But she was still angry. So I played back her first message. “Oh,” she said meekly.

Rather like the tortoise of the tortoise and hare fable, slow and steady gets a return phone call.