Monday, November 16, 2009

Phone Courtesy

Okay, I'm all in a lather about a phone conversation I just had... with a kid.

From a very young age, I have tried to teach my children how to speak to people on the phone. Not just adults but anyone. When answering the phone, they are to say hello, and when the caller asks for someone they are to ask, "May I tell him/her who's calling?" or even simply, "Who is this please?"

And, when they are phoning someone, usually a friend, they are to say, "Hello. This is Charlie Brown. May I please speak to Schroeder?" They are to use the same manners that I expect out of them in everyday conversation. And, for the most part, they do a great job. But I'll admit, it's like anything else: they had to be taught. They weren't born with this phone etiquette set of skills. They practiced with Granny and Poppy, and Mommy and Daddy too.

So, today Peppermint Patty got a call from a friend to play. We'll call the friend... Rosie. Peppermint Patty wasn't home so I intercepted the call.
Texan Mama: Hello?
Rosie: Is Patty there? (I hate it when children - or adults for that matter - do this. They immediately ask for the person and don't even give a greeting like "hello".)
TM: No, she's not home from church yet.
R: Okay.
(pause... pause... longer pause... )
TM: Um, who is this? Can I help you with something?
R: This is Rosie.
TM: Oh okay. Hi Rosie.
(pause... I hear breathing... long pause... )
TM: Uh. Rosie, do you want me to have Patty call you when she gets home?
R: Okay, yah.
TM: Okay, Rosie. Bye.
R: Bye.

You'd think this was the first time this child had ever made a phone call. It was like she didn't even know why she called in the first place! When Patty got home from church, she called Rosie and they planned to get together to play. I told Patty she could play until 5:00. So at 4:50, I called Rosie's house to tell them I was about to come over to pick Patty up.

Texan Mama: Hello. This is Texan Mama. I'm Patty's mother.
Rosie's house person: uh-huh.
TM: Patty came over there to play today with Rosie. Is she still there?
(silence... breathing... long pause... )
TM: Hello?
Rosie's house person: Hello?
TM: Is this Rosie?
Rosie's House Person: No.
TM: Okay, is Rosie's Mom there? Can I talk to her?
(silence... long pause... the sound of someone sucking spit between their braces... )
TM: HELLO? IS THERE ANY ADULT HOME AT THE HOUSE? CAN I PLEASE TALK TO AN ADULT? (I am beginning to freak out a little bit, thinking that my daughter has gone to a house of no return.)
crash. muffle muffle. fumble.
Rosie's Adult: Hello?
TM: (starting over): Hello. I'm Patty's mom. I expected her to say, "Oh hi! Patty and Rosie are having a good time together." instead I got
silence... long pause... breathing...
TM: Is this Rosie's mom?
Rosie's Grandma: No. I'm the Grandma.
(long pause... breathing... )
TM: Oh. Okay. Well, I told Patty that she could play until 5:00 so I was just calling to say I'll be there to get her in about 5 or 10 minutes.
RG: Mm-hmm.
TM: Okay, I'll see you in a little bit.
RG: Okay, well, I'm the Grandma and we're all over here.
(At this point I want to run and get Texan Papa's handgun, just in case. Who knows what I'll find when I get to that house.)

That silly 3-minute phone call shook me up the whole rest of the day. I was so frustrated that a kid in middle school (it was Rosie's brother who answered the phone) could not carry on a completely normal conversation with an adult on the phone. At the very least, he could have said, "I don't know. Let me give the phone to my Grandma." But he just sat there like a deer in the headlights. I kept thinking, certainly their parents must know what they sound like on the phone... why don't they teach their kids how to talk on the phone???? Then, after talking to Grandma, it hit me that the apple didn't fall far from THAT tree. Apparently no one ever taught HER how to talk to people on the phone either.

Then again, maybe *I'm* the naive one. Maybe they purposely talk that way to folks they don't know, so that when a telemarketer calls he or she would rather gauge out their own eyes with a dull spoon than continue a conversation with these dolts.


Emily said...

that is terrible. It really drives me crazy when parents don't teach their kids basic manners and life skills. And it drives me even more nuts when adults themselves don't understand basic manners. Arg.

Jennifer said...

We just don't answer the phone at our house, like hardly ever. I figure if someone wants to talk to us then they will leave a message and I can call them back if I want to. But I usually don't. I hate talking on the phone.

Foursons said...

Oh, that IS frustrating! I need to teach my kiddos phone etiquette ASAP.

Karen said...

Owning a business requires me to phone people and I am shocked at how supposedly intelligent people talk on the phone. I especially hate when a wife calls while her husband is in the background telling her what to ask. Oh, this is about children learning phone etiquette. I guess those people never learned as a child. Sigh.
I am assuming your daughter was okay when you picked her up.

Texan Mama @ Who Put Me In Charge said...

Yep, Patty was fine. But when I got there, the mom and grandma were both there and both looked right through me. Like their meds were just kicking in. And the dad kept pacing back and forth, back and forth.

Tell me, where have all the normal people gone?

Bridgett said...

Ok, I think that would have been the last time Patty would have gone to Rosie's house if I were in your shoes!! I sometimes get shy phone calls from girls to play with Sophia but none so spazzy as that. And one little girl, age 9, always asks me how I'm doing and if I'm having a good day and would it be ok if Sophia came down to her house to play? It's very sweet, but unfortunately rare.

A Lil Enchanted said...

I'm glad to hear that Patty was ok... the normal people?... well we're here on our blogs of

A Lil Enchanted,

Living It, Loving It said...

I have gotten over the "courtesy" idea. What we have taught our chldren, or what we learned from our parents, only applies to a small majority. In my own workplace, that type of courtesy does not exist either. For example, if someone is enough to be my parent or grandparent, you better beleive that that person has my utmost respect. It does not, however, mean he or she has the respect of anyone else in my age group.

Cascia said...

That is strange. I agree with you. You'd think that someone could teach that young man how to talk on the telephone. Hmm, very interesting.

Debbie said...

When phone calls like that happen at our house, and they do far too frequently, my husband gives the kid a phone etiquette lesson! Maybe that's why my kids don't have a lot of friends:)

Small Town Mommy said...

And that is why I rarely let my children answer the phone if it isn't their father calling. My daughter has very good phone matters, she just panics when speaking to adults.

Mama B said...

My mom taught us the same thing and I still cringe when people can't handle basic phone calls!

Someone Being Me said...

I make a lot of the same things you make. Although I do throw in stuffed bell peppers, lasagna, roast, and a few other dishes in there. Maybe you should try adding in a few soups like chili, baked potato soup, chicken and dumplings, or tomato basil with grilled cheese sandwiches. Soups are usually pretty easy to make and even kids like most of those. My simplest recipe ever is roast. I buy just a basic oven roast and dump it in a crock pot in the morning with 2-3 cans of cream of mushroom soup and leave it on low all day. It is the easiest recipe ever and incredibly yummy. You should also try making homemade pizzas. That is always fun for kids.

Every Day Goddess said...

I work on the phone all day long and it drives me crazy too! My kids all knew the proper etiquette before they were ever allowed to answer the phone. And I also give kids etiquette lessons if they call my house and don't know how to act. Somebody has to help them out!