Telephone Angst

Greed! The fodder for our columns that connects idiot spot-fixing cricketers and gullible, Saradha-like pyramid scheme investors…I would rather focus on more relevant and important issues.

The generational divide is never more apparent than when someone above the age of 65 wants to get in touch. This is how it goes. My cell rings. When I don’t pick up, it goes to voicemail. The person may or may not leave voicemail…if he does, he will wait all of 3-4 minutes for me to respond and if I don’t…he will call again. If I still don’t pick up, within the next 3-4 minutes, I will get a call from him on my landline…he just won’t stop till I come on line.

Similarly, when his landline or cellphone rings, a senior citizen will drop everything and dive for the phone. It doesn’t matter whether he is having a conversation with someone, or is at the dinner table or in a cinema house…he will pick up and answer the phone, whatever the situation!

My explanation? Today’s senior citizens come from a generation when telephone lines and phone calls were rationed. In the 70s, one or two apartments in a building were lucky enough to have landlines and every phone call was considered to be a matter of life-and-death and had to be answered, irrespective. This same telephone angst seems to have carried on to the present day…or it simply may be that the older people get, the more impatient they become.

This is for all those (young and old) who can’t seem to let go and untether themselves from their landlines and cellphones!

1. There are many ways of communicating. A phone call is just one of them. It is acceptable not to pick up every call you get and you should get used to the fact that people may not answer your call.

2. To repeat, a phone call is just one more means of communication. If you call me, I will pick up if I am free. If I am with someone, having dinner, in a meeting, running, in the gym, writing, reading, or on a time-out…I will not pick up and nor should you. The only exceptions are when my children, parents or wife call.

3. If it is urgent, I expect that you will leave a voice-mail or text. If you are family or a close friend and it is an emergency, you will anyway know how to get in touch with me.

4. If the other person does not pick up, wait…patiently. Or text and leave a message. Don’t keep your thumb pressed on the call button.

5. Text, text, text. And text. Again…text. Or email.

6. Conversely, if I call you, you don’t have to pick up instantly. And if you couldn’t pick up the first time, you don’t have to apologize and explain. I don’t care and I don’t want to know and you don’t owe anyone an explanation for not picking up. Just as I don’t owe you an explanation for not picking up when you call.

7. Don’t get upset if I don’t pick up your phone. It is not personal and definitely not an ego thing. The situation I am in when you call is probably more important or requires undivided attention. I will return your call once I am done and am free. That’s all there is to it!

Seriously…chill! It’s just a phone call! Definitely not worth all that angst that people also seem to share with the act of answering doorbells! But then that’s fodder for another piece. 

8 Comments

  • Janisar wrote:

    I couldn’t stop to agree on your “cellphone” views! So true they are and I hope every person in world should read your article and accept it as golden rules of cellphone.
    I personally feel there’s no need to call for every single issue and text messages are such a blessings I would prefer them anytime over a call.
    I sincerely pray there should be a feature in smart phone like “flight mode” but it only bar calls rest all (text, 3G,gprs) works.

  • H.L. Chulani wrote:

    Seems your directives have gone in vain Bhavin!

  • Prabha Vinay wrote:

    No! All has not gone in vain yet..

    I am very much with your idea of a very practical approach towards answering phone calls and communicating through text msgs and e-mails, ofcourse depending on the seriousness of the situation. But does every generation understand this or agree to go with the changing times!!
    I have to face the ire of my few elders at times for not communicating properly and depending on text messages and/or e-mails for matters which need not be called and communicated. At the same time people my age (the present generation) go well with the text messages/e-mails for even important things like invitation to one’s engagements, etc.!!

  • Related to this, I must be the only one in the Nairobi streets who does not receive a call on the mobile whilst walking, as almost every other person is talking on the phone. This, despite there being penalties for walking and talking in Nairobi roads. I refuse to answer calls when I am driving – and it seems to annoy callers that I do not answer immediately…

  • The younger generations are the worst addicts….one should see thier expression when their cell phone rings…there is no mai no baap so important as to attend to that silly phone calll…even when they are in temples/church…immediatrly rush out to attend the call…

  • Nitin Tamhane wrote:

    it is difficult not to respond in a business situation.In the category like wife,parents and children you need to add the Boss! You probably are your own boss.All the self assuring and assertive behaviour is good but difficult to follow.I agree that let us try atleast.

  • Aand Desai wrote:

    Great article Sir. I totally agree. I have three inputs .. that I follow when I need to call someone.[1] I wait for a max of three rings.. then I disconnect.[2] Most of the times I send a text asking when would be a good time to call [3] In case I do call and hear an international ring I disconnect asap. Some people just don’t give up :-(

  • Rohit Gosalia wrote:

    Sending a text message /or any other way messaging – option is always better.

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