A Little Phone Schooling

I was sitting at work earlier this morning when the phone rang.

Which is nothing earth-shattering, since I work in an environment where – in addition to a direct phone line -there’s a shared line which everyone answers at some point or another.

I looked over. The call display showed a long-distance number I didn’t recognize.

And that’s I felt the tiny pit of dread in my stomach.

Because in my line of work, you can’t really avoid picking up the phone.

And at 9:32 a.m. on a Sunday morning, the phone conversation can go only go one of two ways.

The call started innocuously enough. The woman merely expressed her interest in a guest she’d just heard on a program and wanted to get in touch with the show to find out more.

I mentioned that while I wasn’t in the same department, I would find the phone number and put her in touch with the program.

And then I said, “Just hang on …”


“You do NOT tell me to ‘hang on’,” the woman retorted in a shaky-but-icy tone. “You can tell me to hold. That is RUDE and IGNORANT.”


I honestly cannot remember how I responded. But I’m sure I used the words “Ma’am”, and “hold”, and I can’t guarantee I was anything more than civil.

I realize that in the age of cellphones, smartphones, texting and telemarketers, the essential rules of phone conversation have evolved – and perhaps eroded – somewhat.


If anything, I TRY to be cordial to whomever is on the line, whether it’s a colleague or a complete stranger.

But I suppose you can’t win ’em all.

I also think if the woman had phrased her comment differently, I probably would take it a lot better.  But her tone just smacked of, “You people today.”  

So, according to people of a certain age, not only do I NOT know how a subway turnstile works, I am now also rude and ignorant.

(And for all they know, I wear rouge instead of pinching my cheeks. And YOU know the type of women who wear rouge.)

Good to know all of my parents’ hard work in raising me has been in vain. They should be SO proud. 

Sure, you’re all chuckling. But let this be a cautionary tale. Because one day, you too will have to take a phone call such as this one.

Just don’t say you weren’t warned.

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