A Public Service

I’m offering this post as a little etiquette tip for all the young folks out there…

I know it’s difficult for you guys to imagine a time when most people didn’t have cell phones—and even harder to think there was a time when most people didn’t even have answering machines!

But it IS true. It hasn’t always been so easy for us to get in touch with one another on a moment’s notice. So, given this lack of knowledge, it’s understandable that you may feel compelled to pick up that cell phone each and every time it rings, regardless of where you are, what you’re doing, or what is requiring your attention at the given moment.

Have you ever picked up your phone just to tell the person on the other end that you can’t talk right now? Back when your mom and dad were your age, someone trying to call you when you were not at home might be met with only an endless series of unanswered rings. How would they know where you are or what you’re doing??? It seems like it would be troubling to be left under such a dark shroud of mystery, but one way or another, we dealt with it.

Then answering machines came along, and instead of trying over and over to call someone back when they were home, we could at least leave a recorded message for the person we wanted to reach—something like, “Hi, this is Timmy. Could Billy call me back when he gets home? OK, thanks! Bye-bye!” It seems archaic, I know, but it was significant progress at the time.

Some older people (like me, or your mom and dad) got used to occasionally missing a call, and needing to get back to folks (or “peeps”) later on. That’s why we’ve embraced a service that comes with most cell phone plans these days, called “voicemail.” It’s very similar to the answering machine, except that you don’t need a box and a clunky old “cassette tape” to make it work! You can call in to your voicemail right from your cell phone and pick up that message from your friend or loved one, without having to be at home!

With the voicemail system that accompanies your cell phone, you can go ahead and let that call ring through..! I know it will probably be hard at first, but the person you’re talking to or doing business with when your phone rings will appreciate such a rare and singular devotion of attention. The weird part is, by paying closer attention to the people you’re interacting with in person, you may actually find it’s not necessary to call them on your cell phone later, to be reminded of what it is you talked about…

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