Continuing the series
With this week’s topic “Never Answer the Phone at the Dinner Table”.
A hot topic
As much as I dislike controversy, I’m going to go ahead and write/post this one anyway. I suspect everyone has a way to feel about this topic, and I look forward to what COULD be a spirited debate in the comments. Just try and keep them on topic and friendly. I DO moderate comments, so I won’t let a discussion devolve into anything not nice.
Phones in the WayBack machine
WAY back in the day when I was growing up, we didn’t have a phone that we could carry around in our pocket all the time. As a matter of fact, our phones were not ONLY attached to the wall by a cord, but the handset was attached to the phone by a squiggly little cord. And just to fully date myself, there was no such thing as an answering machine or caller ID. Oh, and the dial was rotary…so it took a LONG time to dial. Plus you either had to know the number or look it up in this thing called a “phone book” that, believe it or not, listed every person’s name, address and phone number in the local area.
If you’re old like me
You’ll remember that squiggly cord and how, after trying to stretch it out to get some privacy when your girl/boyfriend called, it got all knotted up and tangled and left you stranded within a couple feet of the phone. Fun times. Eventually we got cordless handsets, which were awesome, but also didn’t work too well if you got too far away from the base. Oh, and everybody in the house shared the same number. Weird, right?
Eventually, we got answering machines with a little cassette tape in it (ask someone older than you if you don’t know what a cassette tape is) and we could start “screening” calls by listening as whoever it was left a message. This was great, unless it wasn’t…like when that girlfriend left a mushy message for you so your entire family could hear it and pick on you for it forever. Yeah…that happened. Screening was the precursor to caller ID BTW. My guess is you can find some of these in a museum somewhere, like the American History Museum in DC (A place I highly recommend if you are nearby and have any feelings of nostalgia).
And now, finally
With today’s technology you carry your phone around in your pocket. You are connected to the world 24/7, and oddly every person has their very own phone number. No longer do you call a “house” and ask if the person is there. You call “the person” directly. Houses now have as many phones as there are people to use them…well, usually anyway. These days kids are getting phones at a younger and younger age. It’s kind of mind boggling for an old codger like me, but change is the way of the world.
Back in the day
When I was a kid, families routinely sat down together for dinner. There were exceptions, to be sure, but generally speaking, believe it or not, families had dinner together between 5 and 7 PM. It was generally accepted that calling someone during the “dinner hour” was rude. Essentially, at least in my house, if the phone rang during dinner it had BETTER be an emergency. Unlike most families, we answered the phone if it rang and if it was not an emergency, there was hell to pay! Many, if not most, families just ignored the phone during dinner; if it was important, they’d call back.
Not to mention
Another piece of nostalgic trivia is this: It was considered rude to call anyone after 9:30PM. The whole “It damn well better be an emergency” thing applied to that as well as calling BEFORE 9AM. To summarize: If you wanted to call someone you first had to wait till after 9AM, then pause from 5-7PM and wait till tomorrow morning at 9 if it was after 9:30PM. Oh, and if no one was home then you never even knew someone had called. AND, if someone was on the phone when you called you got a BUSY SIGNAL…which meant you had to try again a little later. Complicated rules, but we managed to get by.
We have it a lot better now
Honestly, I say this with absolute seriousness. These days when the phone rings you can see who’s calling, at least their phone number if you don’t have them in your contacts so you can decide if you want to talk to them. And whoever it is they are calling YOU, not anyone who might be a member of your household or possibly visiting. Not to mention that hardly anyone actually just randomly calls anymore. These days they’ll send a text which could be (likely is) the entirety of the communication or at the very least ask if you are available to call.
Well, except my daughter
My daughter randomly calls…and I confess I LOVE that (Shhh…don’t tell her) several times a week. She also texts pretty routinely as well. All my kids text routinely, and I confess I love THAT too. Again, don’t tell them I said that. All my kids are grown, independent adults in their 30’s and 40’s. For those of you with small kids, hang in there it gets better when they are adults, and you are not responsible for them anymore.
Back to the topic
Sorry, took a slight detour there. As you can see, historically it was generally considered rude to even MAKE a call during the dinner hour unless there was some good reason to interrupt people eating. These days, with people eating at all different times and not necessarily all together around the dinner table, the onus has shifted from the caller to the callee (that must be a word because there is no red squiggly line under it).
We are now uber-connected
And I’m not talking about ride sharing apps. Today, not ONLY do we have our own personal phone in our pocket, that phone includes the entire internet (usually) and many apps for both connecting to each other and for playing games. They are not my grandparent’s, or even my parent’s, phones! But most people (in my experience) still think it is rude to interrupt dinner by taking a call, or answering a text, during a shared meal. IMHO, letting our devices interrupt in person interactions diminishes those relationships to some degree, but that’s just my opinion and you may feel differently.
This “rule” doesn’t only apply to the dinner table It also applies to the conference table, coffee shop table, or any table where you may be meeting someone. In this freelance business of VO and acting the opportunity for in person interactions is even less than for people with a “day job”. Most of our days are spent right here behind our keyboards trying to find work and make industry connections that either allow us to help someone achieve their goals or help us advance our business (usually both at the same time). The opportunity to sit across the table from a client, or potential client, is rare.
Answering your phone or responding to (or even just CHECKING) text messages and emails disconnects you from whoever you are sitting down with. It sends the message that whatever is happening on your phone is more important than what is happening at that table. There is nothing going on that can’t wait for an hour. Sadly, having this technology at our fingertips has created a “right now” mentality that could damage relationships.
How do YOU feel
If you are sitting across from someone, whether business or personal, how does it make you feel when they are interrupting your interaction by constantly checking their phone? For me it makes me feel less important to them. It absolutely makes me a bit reticent about our relationship and how invested I might want to be in it. I believe this is pretty universal.
There are exceptions
I recognize there could be times when you absolutely MUST pay attention to your phone. Maybe a loved one is ill, or there is a huge contract that is time sensitive. Maybe something critical is happening at your “day job” that requires immediate attention. These are all good reasons to be alert to what is happening on your phone, and there is a way to handle that. Simply let whoever you are with know up front that there is something important going on that may require your attention, apologize that it could interrupt whatever you are doing in the moment and let them know that you are OK rescheduling with them if that’s an issue. Most people will understand and make allowances.
Unless there is some known issue that could pop up, put your phone on silent, disable vibrations and leave your phone in your pocket (or even your car) until you’re done with whatever you’re doing and Never Answer Your Phone at the Dinner Table!