Phone Etiquette

My parents raised me to be nice. I was supposed to be polite to people, and I was. With regret, I admit that I am less so, the older I get. I blame the strangers who call me on the phone.

So many people, all unknown to me, feel free, empowered, and worthy, to call me whenever they want during the day and/or evening, to press me, question me, suggest to me, and threaten me with, well, whatever is on their mind. I’ve become a shrieking shrew to strangers on the phone. On rare occasions, someone I don’t know will phone me with a real question. I will have answered taut and tight-voiced and then must apologize for my discourtesy.

People representing organizations who need money give me a call. Please. Have they not read about the economy? I guess that’s why they’re in trouble and asking for help, but I’m not the one to give it. I care about my alma mater and the March of Dimes, and people with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Diabetes, Cancer, etc., but I don’t have any extra money. Really, I don’t. I don’t want to be rude to them. I especially don’t want to offend the Texas Rangers and local police officers, but I DON’T HAVE ANY EXTRA MONEY.  I PROMISE.

I can hear in their spiels that they all have been carefully trained. They start talking, and they DO NOT STOP. They don’t take a breath, which would allow me to speak. How do they keep from passing out? I used to just put down the phone and walk away, leaving them droning on and on . Now, I speak, loudly, over their words, saying, “Sorry, I can’t help you now.” And I hang up. Sometimes, when I’m feeling even more testy, I explain to them about my own medical problems, car problems, air conditioner problems. They hang up.

And, truly, who told the people running for office that those incessant phone calls, with live human beings or recordings, might actually help their campaign? Office seekers, listen to me: those campaign managers were lying! Making a call like that to my home is likely to get your name on my own list. I check that list before I go to the polls so I will know whom to vote against. Yes, really I do. I’m that irritated about it.


People phone my house and ask to speak to Mrs. Goodwin, who was my mother. Yes, we do live in the house where my parents used to live. But, she passed away eight (yes EIGHT) years ago, followed by my dad the next year. The phone number we have is the same number we have had for thirty-six years. It was never, ever their phone number. So I know exactly what that business/agency/person is doing. They keep getting “no longer in service” recordings when they try using that old phone number. When it doesn’t work, they get busy finding out what phone number does belong to that house now. And they call me. They don’t find out who lives at that address now, they go ahead and call, annoying me by phoning, and offending me by using their backhanded methods. Those calls go something like this:


“Hello, Mrs. Goodwin?”


“Um, all right.”

(a few moments of silence, while I continue to fume, and then another voice)

“Yes, Mrs. Goodwin?”

“No, this is not Mrs. Goodwin!” I say, and I do not stop to take a breath. “Mrs. Goodwin has been dead FOR EIGHT YEARS. And, furthermore, not only is this not her phone number, THIS WAS NEVER, EVER HER PHONE NUMBER. EVER. TAKE HER NAME OFF YOUR LIST. TAKE THIS NUMBER OFF YOUR LIST. NEVER CALL ME AGAIN!”

They say they will, and I think they’ll follow through. Who wants to hear that diatribe ever again?


Sometimes I’ll be busy working, lunching, cleaning, napping, etc., and the phone will ring. I stop what I’m doing to answer the call.


No response. No response for several seconds.

“Hello,” I say again. “Hello,”

“Hello,” says a bright, cheerful voice. She continues, “Hi, this is Suzanne from (wherever she’s from), and I’m calling you today because . . .”

“Stop!” I say, firmly (but not yelling). “Suzanne! Stop talking.” (I’ve learned to listen for their names. I think I startle them when I use their name, and they do stop talking. Maybe they think it’s their grandmother.)

I keep saying it until she actually stops talking. Then I go on.

“This is what happened, Suzanne. I was busy. The phone rang, and I stopped what I was doing to answer. I said hello and no one was there. I had to say hello three times before you answered me. When I answer a ringing phone, I expect the caller to respond. You did not. That’s rude and I don’t talk to people who do that. Good-bye.” I hang up.

I used to be polite.


And the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

Jonah 4:4 (NRSV)

Well, no. I’ll try to do better.




2 Responses to “Phone Etiquette”

  1. Kay Dunlap

    This one made me laugh out loud. I going to try this. I HATE answering the telemarketer’s calls and no one is on the line.


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