Monday, November 14, 2011

Keep Your Mustache Out of the Hole

It's been a bit, but I'm back in full force. You know how those final edits can be. One "find" feature search of a word like "had" unearths all kinds of ugliness. But while I was seeking out potential things to add to chapter breaks, like quotes-which usually annoy me, so why would I go there?-I found old-school phone etiquette rules published before Heloise or Miss Manners were out of diapers. They were so charming, I added them to my must-share list.

Circa 1910-ish, ATT sent out telephone pledge cards to all their customers that read: "I believe in the Golden Rule and will try to be as Courteous and Considerate over the Telephone as if Face to Face." I suppose they expected the rich-y families who could afford such a luxury to gather around the parlor and recite it as if it were Gospel. If they knew we now butt-dial in discourteousness, they might declare "Astonishing!" as they rub their tonic-slicked mustaches in disgust. I love this 1910 ATT ad:

Not only is the guy on the left a handsome Kevin Costner, but he's sporting a pleasing smile while talking to the grumpy old codger on the right. Next time I'm tempted to unleash on my security company for withholding my refund for their mistake for yet another month, I'm going to think of Mr. Costner and how he was able to hold it together while the old guy uses his fist and his middle finger to make his point. Whew! Glad there weren't video phones in that decade. Tisk-Tisk, you old fart. Profanity via telephone was punishable by fine or jail time.

Speaking of mustaches...

"Speak directly into the mouthpiece," said one instruction manual, "keeping mustache out of the opening."

Also, an invitation by telephone was never acceptable. Prevailing thought of the day was that it put the invitee on the spot to accept (or lie), which is the real reason answering machines, voice mail and texting were invented: better lies come with a zen moment to construct.

Lastly, and most egregiously, was the practice of saying, "Hello?" when answering the telephone. Again, from ATT: "Would you rush into an office or up to the door of a residence and blurt out 'Hello! Hello! Who am I talking to?' No, one should open conversations with phrases such as 'Mr. Wood, of Curtis and Sons, wishes to talk with Mr. White...' without any unnecessary and undignified 'Hellos." The most undignified thing about this is the mental picture of someone barging into someone's residence at all.

So where does this leave us? I can't see that breeches in phone etiquette have changed much. People still talk on their phone when they get to the front of a line, speak too loudly in public, blow off the company around them in favor of those who are texting them, and think everyone appreciates their Lady Gaga soundbyte ringtone. Thankfully, keeping the mustache out of the hole is the least of our worries, which must be a tremendous relief to the Tom Sellecks of the world.

What is your biggest pet peeve about cell phone etiquette?


the walking man said...

There is such a thing as "cell phone etiquette?" I have never witnessed that phenomena.

That ad seems to me to be saying, if you want your call to go through without any shit then you had better be nice to the operator, maybe not chocolate and flowers nice but at least respectful "because she can pull your plug bub!"

Charles Gramlich said...

The grumpy old codger on the right looks like an Andy griffith of Matlock fame

L.A. Mitchell said...

@WM-That is *exactly* what it is saying. Once you get your in-law on the phone you can drop all the f-bombs you want, but play nice to the switch girl.

@Charles-He DOES. I always thought he looked kind of grumpy, myself.