A couple years ago, I was in New York, visiting a good friend. As we stepped into his building’s lobby, my cell phone rang. It was a good friend I have in Colombia, we communicate by instant message regularly; we talk by phone maybe every one or two years. This was that phone call.
In the building’s lobby (or doorman area, for lack of a better term), there was a sign quite sternly prohibiting phone calls. What the fuck! What is a waiting area for if not to wait and maybe take a call? I already had the phone in my hand, trying to greet my friend after more than a year of not talking to him via phone… We were walking toward the elevator, and another tenant took the same elevator as us. My New York Frind told me to hang up the phone, it was disrespectful to have a phone call in an elevator. All I could do was to tell my Colombia friend he had called at exactly the wrong time I would call him later, and hung up on him without giving him the chance to say anything.
What the hell had just happened!? If you are in a building lobby and your phone rings should you scurry out the door like some chain smoker to have your call on the street?
Ok, so I get it that I am a dinosaur. Being 38 years old feels very old in the age of constant tweets, checkins, instant-everything, and always connectedness.
But what the hell happened to phone calls? When did it become bad manners to call someone?
Occasionally, I do consulting for old-style financial companies, and they want a phone call for everything. Stuff you could resolve quickly on an email to multiple recipients, they want to delay the resolution until Thursday at 2:45pm so everyone can be on the line when two people agree on a way to solve a problem. Fine. That’s my old world, where I grew up professionally.
In the new world, through, there are no phone calls. There was an interesting article today on the NY Times about the death of the phone call. Don’t call me and I won’t call you. Yes, I have a cell phone, but how dare you call me?!
I have yet to learn more about phone call etiquette. Maybe calling in public is s a snooty Park Avenue taboo. Maybe having your phone call is like having your crack: It’s best to do it in private.
To this day, I still don’t know what exactly I should have done that day in New York.