View Full Version : Old fashioned telephone ettiquette?

Stephen Tashiro
07-21-2015, 1:49 AM
On TV shows of the B&W era (e.g. Perry Mason) the hero often visits another persons office and two are antagonistic. Then the phone rings, the person answers, and says to the hero "It's for you". I don't recall any case where the person refused to give the hero the phone. I only remember one instance where the person complained before giving the hero the phone.

Another familiar scene is that the hero is at a person's office. The two are anatgonistic. The hero asks to use the persons phone. The person almost always lets the hero do it.

Was that courtesy with telephones actually ingrained in people in those days? Or is the TV portrayal just something to make the plot move along smoothly?

Glenn Clabo
07-21-2015, 7:00 AM
"In those days" courtesy in all places was ingrain from birth. People actually knew how to merge into traffic...not expect everyone else to slow down and move over. People stopped and talked against the buildings not in the middle of the sidewalk. People actually said please and thank you. People respected their elders. People held doors open for other people. People didn't look at their phones when out to eat. Kids would never talk back to teachers, police, or in fact any adult. People respected workers...no matter what they worked at. People respected those that furthered their education and taught others. If people didn't have something nice to say...they had the courtesy not to say it. People aired their differences face to face...not hiding behind technology.
As you can imagine...I could go on...and on....

Karl Andersson
07-21-2015, 8:06 AM
I don't know if it was necessarily courtesy rather than acceptance that it was the only way to communicate. I began working in the "corporate" world just before cell phones shifted from a lunchbox-sized thing that only the big boss got to lug around to relatively small ones that the boss could pester you with constant calls (but no texting). In those days, if you needed to make a call while visiting another office - even if you weren't on friendly terms, they would let you use the phone; to send someone down the hall to a pay phone would be a distinctly petty and confrontational act. As far as the 'someone calling you at their office' thing, that seems like a fairly calculated move to show them your importance. I've had people call for me on a person's desk phone when conducting an antagonistic visit, but it was always their higher-ups wanting to intimidate me vs. the other way around. Of course, these were the 80's, and maybe politeness had already fled from American culture by then, but what do you expect when all we had for music was Flock of Seagulls and Duran Duran?

Regarding the "texting at a restaurant table", that is, of course, one of the signs of a truly uncouth person (even better when both parties on a date do it simultaneously for more than a second) HOWEVER, I do recall 1930's movies where the people in a high-class restaurant were actually brought the phone at their table by the Maitre'D. With the reception they had on their princess phones, they had to shout to be heard, even more than these idjits in the line at the grocery store, so that brand of jerk must have been around a long time - their assininity is just aided by technology now.

I'm probably younger than Glenn, but am not too young to remember what he's getting at; the faceless technology combined with an undercurrent of aggressive, selfish behavior in just about all media seems to be getting the better of people. Like junk food, it's easier to be an ass than it is to think of others, so people are gravitating towards the easy.

glenn bradley
07-21-2015, 8:11 AM
Having a telephone available in the 50's was not a given so the treatment of that situation was different. I do agree with Glenn C in that the failure to teach common courtesy is one of the great failures of a generation or two. The LOML still talks about the first time she met by sons (about 12 and 16 at the time) as the older opened the car door for her and both said strange things like "please" and "thank you". I do find it interesting to watch a movie that is trying to build tension by showing a person running frantically from place to place in search of a phone.

Keith Outten
07-21-2015, 8:44 AM
The problem with etiquette is that it is now old fashioned and it shouldn't be. I remember when an adult asked me a question and I failed to respond with yes sir or no sir my Dad would instantly dish out the appropriate punishment which would probably be illegal today. I learned real quick what it means to show respect for my elders and over time was taught telephone skills among other things. Good manners were expected of everyone not rewarded as if they were some kind of accomplishment.

Rod Sheridan
07-21-2015, 9:32 AM
How true Keith.

I remember once as a young lad being out with my father and mother.

My father opened the door to a building, I waltzed in, in front of my father. I still remember the wallop on the side of my head, as well as the "Don't ever walk in front of me again" rebuff from my father.

Funny, I never did it again................Rod.

Mike Cutler
07-21-2015, 9:38 AM

I'm 56, so I grew up with the telephone on the wall, or near a table. Generally there was only one in the house, but as time went on it was common to have one in the kitchen, one in the living room and one in the master bedroom.
As kids we were "taught" by our parents how to answer the phone properly. If you didn't answer it politely, by mom's standard, there was usually a little "correction factor" involved, and you didn't get to answer the phone any longer until you proved you could. ;)

It was common place to let someone use your phone, generally they were either lost, or had car trouble, but only if mom and dad were home.

Stan Calow
07-21-2015, 2:55 PM
And by saying "I'm calling long distance" you got a much faster response as people respected that that was a bigger deal than a normal phone call.

Dave Cullen
07-21-2015, 3:55 PM
Yes, those were more polite days. But as for telephone etiquette that's something that has almost disappeared. Mom taught us to never talk on the phone while eating something. I have a buddy with a Bluetooth stuck in his head and he'll be chompin' away while talking on the phone. It disgusts me, and I just hang up.

Or he'll call me then put me on hold while he takes another call. I hang up.

Some people's lives revolve around their smart phones. I pity them.

David Ragan
07-21-2015, 4:06 PM
How about simply saying who you are when someone picks up your call, before you make your request? And even making a request: may I speak with Susan, not "is Susan there?"

Mike Null
07-21-2015, 4:19 PM
I detest the telephone habits of nearly everyone today. My wife and I were out to dinner at a very nice restaurant Sat. Nearly everyone but my wife and I had their phones on the table.

OTOH at near 80 I can say that manners are not dead. You would be surprised at the courtesies extended me by those of all ages--even 12 and 13 year olds. I never forget to say thank you though--such courtesies must be acknowledged.

Then there is this:

“The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.”

― Socrates

Larry Browning
07-21-2015, 4:44 PM
And by saying "I'm calling long distance" you got a much faster response as people respected that that was a bigger deal than a normal phone call.
Years ago, before voice mail and cell phones, if you were away from your desk when you got a phone call, the operators would page you over the intercom. If the call was long distance, they would add "long distance call" to the front of "Call for Larry Browning, please call ext. 1234". This always added urgency to picking up the call. You younger people may not know this, but they used to charge extra by the minute for long distance calls.

Also, who remembers having a party line? Our ring was 2 longs.

Larry Browning
07-21-2015, 5:07 PM
And even making a request: may I speak with Susan, not "is Susan there?"
I have been known to Answer that question with "Why yes she is!" and hang up. Especially when the inquiry was about my daughter and the party on the other end was obviously a boy. Most times the phone would ring again and the good ones would then ask, "May I please speak to Fran?". Others would sometimes call back with the same question, and they would get the same answer, and hung up on again. One kid called 3 times before he figured it out, others never bothered to call back. Believe it or not my daughter still got married and has a family of her own.