Saturday, 26 July 2008

Must We Always Answer Our Phones?

When I was growing up, few of my friends had house phones and mobiles were yet to be deeveloped. Nowadays, everybody seems to have at least one phone in some form or another and we all seem to be expected to be available at any given time.

I’ve no idea how many times my mobile’s gone off while I’m visiting with friends, having dinner in a pub, or standing in a supermarket checkout queue. My house phone has rung while I’m up to my elbows in washing, have my hands full of dough, or am in the middle of eating dinner. Yet time after time the caller has refused to respect that I didn’t want to or couldn’t talk right then. “Just let me tell you about…” seems to be the standard response to my “I can’t talk right now”.

I find it rude when my guests spend 10-15 minutes or more on the phone while I’m sat there like a dumb banana twiddling my thumbs and hearing half a conversation. In fact I once had I guest spend more than an hour on her mobile, talking to her other half who she'd be seeing the next day anyway!

When I’m socialising, I concentrate on those I’m socialising with, not those who are making unnecessary demands on my time and I expect other reasonably sensible people to do the same.

Do we really believe we’re so important that we have to take every call? Do others really have a right to demand our time in any situation?

Phones obviously have a place in our modern society but the fact that the UK has 115 mobile phones for every 100 inhabitants* (and we're talking the civilian network here - business phones aren't included) says a lot about how important we think it is that we should be contactable at any time and in any place. When Lise arrived for a visit I had no idea which number she'd be contactable on because she has THREE! One that she sends texts with, one that she calls with, and one "just in case...". I have enough trouble finding my single phone half of the time so how I'd get on with three is anybody's guess.

It’s years now since I’ve been dependant on answering the phone. If it isn’t suitable to talk - and that could be just because I don’t feel like talking - I don’t answer it. I figure that if it’s important they’ll either leave a message or text me; if they don’t then they couldn’t have wanted to get hold of me that badly. Nowadays, being less dependant on my phone helps keep my life simple. I'm not stressed by a ringing phone that I'm unable to answer in the way some people are.

Some say I’m being ignorant and selfish by ignoring a ringing telephone but I say I’m protecting my right to privacy. We do still have that right, don’t we?

Sharon J

* Source: Eurostat


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Chris said...

Hi Sharon!

Well said! I have to have my mobile on for emergency contact and so it is attached to me somehow when I am out! But if it is a text and I am with friends etc it is left until I am on my own as that won't be the emergency contacts! In fact most of the time the horrible beep beep for the text part is on silent anyway!

As for the phone at home if I am busy then it is left on answer phone and I call people back! I do have different ring tones for family though for those "just in case " moments with elderly disabled parents to consider! So if its them I will always answer it "just in case" and if it is not an emergency and I am busy then I call them back too!

I find it extremely rude when people place priority with those on the phone rather than those they are with and hare this culture of having to "shout" loudly into mobiles on buses , trains , in coffee shops , queues etc! presumably they need to tell you somebody wants them and they are still seen as so "important" because their mobile rang!!!!!

Hope you are OK and have a good weekend.

Galanthus said...

OOOO my pet hate:-). People who chat at length on their mobile phones while out socialising. How rude! I would never do this at all, but it appears be acceptable to most people as far as I can see. Recently I saw a family out for Sunday lunch together. One of their number got a mobile phone call. The others sat talking in hushed voices while the phone conversation went on for about 30 minutes. What is the point of dining together? I resolutely refuse to be always available. My mobile phone is for emergencies only.

Have a great weekend!

Sharon J said...

@ Chris. I always have mine on me in case of emergencies too, and like you I have different ring tones for my family because they're the only ones I'll always answer the phone to.

I've never understood why people have to shout down their phones, either. Very annoying.

@ Galanthus. First of all, nice to see you here. I took a wander over to your blog, which I loved, but when I wanted to post a comment I couldn't figure out how to do it :(

As for families out dining. I remember a similar episode. The father was out alone with his two sons at a pizza restaurant but spent the entire meal talking on the phone while the boys just quietly ate their food. I couldn't help wondering whether it was supposed to be some father/son bonding time or what, but whatever the reason, the boys certainly didn't appear to be enjoying themselves.

Eco-Gites of Lenault said...

When we moved to France we didn't get Fench mobiles and really do not miss them at all. I will quite often let the phone go to answerphone at home but will return the call as quickly as possible. My sister, on the other hand never switches her phone off - and even had it on a Dad's funeral -thankfully on silent mode. I was still furious - no-one is THAT important, especially not her. Oops, sorry - rant over.

Jack said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jack said...

I have to be honest: I am definitely guilty of the phone thing. I'm much better about it now, but there was a time when it was perfectly natural to stop a conversation so that I could get on the phone for something or other. I think it has to do with being a lawyer and having to always be connected. But I think I'm cured now.


Sharon J said...

@ Eco-gites. I agree that what your sister did was very disrespectful. I used to have a friend who had his mobile on during a wedding and it wasn't even on silent. It started ringing in the middle of the service! As you say, NOBODY is THAT important.

@ Jack. Y'know, what you've written doesn't surprise me. Knowing you from your blog has given me huge respect for you because the changes you've made to your lifestyle are HUGE compared to what most of us have done.

Frugal Trenches said...

Couldn't agree more! In my teenage years I was addicted to the phone, then I grew up and I think many adults out there need to too! Having a phone ring doens't make you seem more popular, doesn't give you self worth, you do that through character.
I will ignore my phone anytime I feel like it and feel no guilt whatsoever! Only when my mother rings and rings and then I tend to pick up! Call it catholic daughters guilt :0

Anonymous said...

You are so groovy! I stopped answering phones like a drone when I had a breakdown. Now I only answer if I feel like it. Caller identifier helps, and an answer machine too, although all my chums know I may NOT get back to them!!

Anonymous said...

My work mobile rings constantly, its the way people contact me as I'm car based.. Out of work, if I'm not on call, its on divert to my voicemail box and I don't use it. I keep it with me for emergencies only.
There are days I consider throwing it in the River Trent, however I know that wouldn't be eco friendly, so I don't :)

Catz said...

Oh phones can make you soooo stressed can't they! Thank goodness for answer phones! My family have given up on reminding me to take my phone out with me - comments like a mobile phone means it is mobile! totally wash off on me! If it is urgent then they can leave a message and I will get back to them. I grew up without mobile phones and in a house without a landline for many years and we coped.

Sharon J said...

@ Frugal Trenches. You're so right about a ringing phone not making a person popular. They may believe it does, but they're pretty darned unpopular with me!

@ Cherry Rolfe. Groovy? That's something I haven't been called before. I can live with it though :)

I have caller display too, although I don't always bother to look at it and when I do, if I don't recognise the number than more often than not it goes unanswered. The answer machine can pick it up instead.

@ Move to Portugal. Work mobiles are a different matter. When I was working full time I also answered my phone even on holiday because, being self-employed, I didn't want to miss a potential earning opportunity. I wouldn't go as far as answering it on holiday now though, even if I were still running my business.

@ Catz. You sound like my mum. She turns hers off when she goes out. I do keep mine with me in case somebody needs me in an emergency (they'll text if I don't pick up) but I'm so used to ignoring the ring when I'm in 'unsuitable situations' that I don't even think about it, let alone stress about it.

poppy m said...

Well said - my friends now understand & use internet or telepathy! I to feel that it's really rude to answer the phone when you have people with you - if it's an emergency I'm sure I'll know or failing that, the caller will phone again & again.
This is the 1st time I've visited your blog.I've just read your article about your son - it was a lovely lovely piece
poppy m