It appears to have been relatively early in the course of primitive man’s steady march toward modern civilization, that he discovered the invaluable benefits of living in stable societies or tribes. Such benefits included joint defense and security, cooperative hunting and food gathering, skill specialization, interdependence and, above all, the life enhancing benefits of human company and social interaction. The latter, of course, necessitated a commonly understood language and the corollary requirement of socially approved behavior. Communities developed nuanced folkways, as was appropriate to their own culture, each embodying its signature style to the expression of amity and mutual respect.
Availing ourselves of the useful and always available literary time machine, we would leap a great many eons to the 1840’s, when human conversational interaction was immensely facilitated and enhanced by the invention of the telephone. The consensus is that it was invented by Alexander Graham Bell, whose first practical use, according to the apocryphal story, was the phoned message to his assistant, who was in another room, “Come here Watson, I want you.”
By reason of its ubiquitous utility, the telephone morphed, exponentially, from its 19th Century prototype to its developing progeny, from the telephone exchange (manual switchboard connection), to the coin operated device, to the mobile phone (the latter, apparently, took decades to attain acceptability), to touch- tone phones, and in 1978, to the cell phone (Bell Labs., AT&T). The rest is current history, for good or bad (but this is another subject).
The limited, targeted subject of this note is a certain newly prevalent use of the telephone, which uses seems to negate or repudiate society’s former inherited tradition of considerate and thoughtful behavior as applicable to social interaction. This unfortunate trend seems to fall into two distinct, but related categories which will be referenced, below.
However, let us first create, solely for illustrative purposes, the following two theoretical situations. Suppose you are engaged in walking to the local grocery store to purchase some needed food items when a complete stranger suddenly accosts you, and without any apparent justification, requests your personal identity. In a second case, such a stranger, presumptuously, asks you for your answers to certain questions, whatever may be the subject, perhaps, marketing or politics. It would certainly appear that in both instances, the stranger would have taken unwelcome liberties, acted aggressively and did so without a modicum of sensitivity.
To return to the subject, one can easily transpose such improper behavior to that of those telephone callers who, without any identification or permission, request whether a named party is available, or else, more presumptuously, initiate a questionnaire on some subject. These are real instances and are even worse than the above theoretical illustrations, in that they are anonymous and the person on the receiving end lacks the ability to observe the questioner. Depending upon the condition of the receiving personality, the reaction to such arrogant rudeness may vary from mere annoyance to actual fear. It appears to be (disappointingly) necessary, to remind such abusive callers of the standards of behavior observed since the early days of man, concerning awareness and courtesy.