“Calls and Waiting”

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Growing up I often heard “Stay off the phone, I’m waiting for a call from…” This might be referring to my father, the doctor, the pharmacy or another adult. At any rate, the person demanding that we stay off the phone was my mother.Apparently if one of those people heard a busy signal(the sound a phone used to send to the caller if someone was talking on it) that person would NEVER CALL BACK. A life or death sense seemed implied by this information. So we stayed off the phone.

Somewhere in the last twenty years or so the telephone company came up with added features. Of course they also increased the cost of phone service. One of these features was “call waiting.” While you were talking to someone a loud buzzer would alert you that someone else was trying to reach you. Now we had an etiquette challenge. What were we supposed to do with this buzzer? An eventual solution was to state if we were waiting for a call from a spouse, a doctor or a pharmacy and “switch  over” to the other call. Otherwise it was very poor form to go see who else was calling, implying whoever it was might be more important than the present caller. It took a while and a few bruised feelings to come up with this behavior.

The latest feature is “call waiting caller id.” This allows you to hear the buzzer, check to see who else is calling(all the while trying to keep up with your present conversation) and decide what to do. Present etiquette seems to suggest it is permissible to “switch over” for a spouse, a doctor or a pharmacy. Otherwise it is polite to ignore the second call. Sadly, in the case of our phone service, the other person keeps hearing the phone ring until they hang up, never knowing why it wasn’t answered.

I guess this is an advancement in waiting for phone calls. But it sure has forced me to invent new social skills. It was easier when all I had to do was “Stay off the phone.”

24 thoughts on ““Calls and Waiting”

  1. If only today’s technology would reveal the TRUE identity of the caller. As it is now, most of the calls I get are either NAME UNAVAILABE, the (supposed) city and state of the unnamed caller, or a phone number with no name….and they seldom leave a message (though many of them call over and over again). Need I add that I never answer such calls.

  2. We have number ID visible in a window on the house phone, and I never answer it if I don’t recognise the number. But we didn’t get the call waiting warning as well, as I find that far too irritating. 🙂
    As we both have mobiles, if our house phone stays engaged, the other person generally rings one of our mobiles. Equally annoying, unless it is a dire emergency. (Which it never is)
    Best wishes, Pete

  3. Lately, Caller ID seems to be getting more sophisticated. I frequently see the message “Robocall” now, and this prevents that minor irritant.

  4. You are correct, we are trying to learn a new code of etiquette. The great moral dilemma I found was whether one should answer a mobile phone call while in a lavatory. The echoing acoustics will give the game away to the caller, you will feel awkward and vulnerable and anyone outside will find it odd to hear a conversation coming from one of the stalls. When I was working this was a common dilemma (what if it is a really ill patient ??) and I never found a proper solution to it.

    1. That reminds me of many years ago I was talking to a male consultant and heard water. I asked him if he was in the tub. When he acknowledged he was, I realized he found me a little more than collegial!

  5. 🤣🤣🤣 the post is a reminder of my childhood as well. But I was usually happier to stay away from the phone to avoid any calls missed on my account and the repurcussion thereof.
    I am still not able to articulate my thoughts around the ‘buzzing’. As a result, I have hurt a lot of feelings. No social skills so far!

  6. Right now, if I go to loo, someone rings my phone. When i miss it, they call my mother-in-law who lives in the same house. Then, they call my husband who is probably at work, who then calls me back to let me know about the call. All this, while I was in the loo.

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