Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The lost art of the telephone

I get a lot of phone calls at work that aren't specifically intended for me.  Basically, anyone that they don't know whom to send to, they give to me.  As such, I get a lot of long-winded explanations.

It's a small thing, really, but when you add up how much of my time is spent listening to unnecessary information, I think it becomes understandable why it irritates me so much.  For instance, just this morning, I was on the phone with a man who went on and on about the first-graders they were bringing on a field trip from a Title One school, most of whom are not members and are mostly African immigrants, so it's a really great experience for them.  They take them on a tour of the Square and the office building, then give them a can of lemonade on the southwest corner of the Eagle Gate.  He just found out that they're closing that cross walk today, so it would take three crosswalks to get to that area, and could they have permission to do it on the grassy area by the fountain?

How much of that did I actually need to know?  They're taking a field trip, and access to the area they usually use for snack time is limited, so could they please use somewhere else?  What needed all of 30 seconds to convey enough information for me to accurately route his call instead took three or four.

I get this all the time.  The worst is when they call for someone specific and it rolls over to me.  "Would you like their voicemail?" I ask (ever so sweetly).  "Well, maybe you can help me," they say, before launching into a three-minute explanation.  My response is almost always without fail, "Yes, you would need to talk to [whomever they were originally trying to reach] about that.  Would you like to leave a voicemail?"  Right back where we started.

Voicemails, of course, is a similar problem, with people leaving far too much information.  And then of course they say their phone number like they're auditioning to be the new MicroMachine guy, so you have to listen to the entire rambling message so that you can get the last six seconds, which is the only really pertinent information.  And why is it that people always speed up for the phone number?  My rule is say it slowly, say it twice.  Even better, say it once at the beginning and once at the end, so they don't even have to listen to the rest of the message.

Honestly, it's like no one knows how to use the phone anymore.  I blame texting.


  1. Agree, especially with leaving numbers. I began stating my name and number at the very beginning and then again at the end when I worked in a sales office. I still do it now, usually, on less-than-personal calls (obviously, if it's really personal, they have my number. :) )

    Can you really blame texting in this case? I blame texting for many things, but how many of the people who call you are actually young enough to text? Maybe I am wrong in my assumption that you deal with only old people!

  2. I blame texting for all phone-related societal ills, even if unfairly.

  3. Amen to that. Or when they move their mouth away from the phone while rattling off the phone number so you get 555-12....wait! Don't make me listen to your kid and dog barking at each other again...crap.


Be nice.