|Island Notes: An accidental blogger and telephonic etiquette|
|Tuesday, 06 September 2011 06:42|
I did not intend to write and to blog was unheard of when I first came to Freeport ... but, over time, it just happened that I collected a lot of notes and letters and even anecdotal information from all kinds of sources. It all started when I sent a letter to the editor of a Nassau newspaper in the Bahamas. The letter I wrote around 1966 was about Bahamian place names, the letter garnered little interest but this first letter became Appendix B in my book ‘Grand Bahama’ (it was included along with a miscellany of other observations and notes). Soon afterwards I found myself writing about more topical things concerning the Bahamas, Miami and, courageously perhaps, even about the international scene.
I personally find letters from the general public more interesting than some of the parochial articles and syndicated press reports that pass for news. But if you think about it, large circulation magazines like Time, Newsweek, etc. nowadays all lead off with letters from the public. Even some popular television programmes, like CNN, now include a segment with letters from the public featured prominently. And the reason isn’t hard to find - the voice of the people is sometimes more insightful - and legitimate - than a single point-of-view resident commentator.
Anyway here is my take on a matter that may resonate with some people:
We Bahamians may have some of the worst telephone etiquette in the Western World. I am sure you know what I mean. How often have you telephoned a business to have the phone answered by someone whose tone of voice suggests that she or he (but usually she) has been stirred from sleep or is having a row with her boyfriend and is either hostile or totally disinterested in talking to you? The distant voice grunts, “Yes…” Often there is no identification of the company or office. “Is Mr. Grant in?” you ask, “err… I’ll check”. Why check, you wonder, when he is sitting 8 feet away from you on the other side of a piece of glass! Three minutes pass. “You wanna speak to him?” You try not to feel exasperated - why did I call if I did not want to speak to him? “He on the phone.” Trying to sound polite you ask, “any idea how long he will be?” Answer. “No”. “Alright then I will try later” you say as the phone is clicked off before you finish the sentence.
Bigger offices like to put you on hold. There you are bombarded with messages about what a good company they are or you are treated to a miscellany of scratchy music that probably isn’t your taste. All the while you are being told ‘how important your call is to us”. Really? Many government departments are among the worst at telephone etiquette. In the old days civil servants used to end their letters with “I am, dear sir (or madam), your obedient servant”. Wow has that mentality gone forever! And have you noticed how some lawyers have adopted the American habit of getting their receptionists to the answer the phone by saying, “Law Chambers…” What help is that? Are they subtly trying to tell you that they are only lawyer in town worth using? And what about the person-to-person calls one can’t fail to hear in the street and even in enclosed spaces that are even more trying. First the callers raise their voice to a shout. A yelled “Hey…” is the usual greeting. From here on much of the talk is in unintelligible street jargon though they seem to be talking a lot about an acquaintance with the initials MF.
And don’t get me started about voice mailboxes! People spend their whole day ‘being away from their desk’ or ‘on the phone’. You try to leave a message to be met with the response, “ this mailbox is full.” If you are not disconnected by now you can try to speak to the operator (the automated voice calls the person an ‘attendant’). Try clicking the phone and you will definitely get cut off. Occasionally ‘O’ works. This gets you back to the ‘attendant’ telling you to dial the extension number. Of course you don’t know it. “Try our alphabetic menu,” a canned voice suggests. The problem with that is that dialing systems are alpha-numeric. The Port Authority has a neat variation on this. If you place a call to an executive the call is immediately directed to his (or her) voicemail and a smug voice cuts in and says, “this person does not subscribe to this system”… and you are promptly cut off…
- Bahama Blue (still on hold)
(Excerpt from ‘Freeport Notebook’ ©)
Island Notes is contributed by Peter Barratt. From time to time, excerpts from his new book, FREEPORT NOTEBOOK, which carries the alliterative sub-title: “Pines, Port, Politics, Poems and Prose," are included in this column and come from Barratt’s 40-years’ experience with the island. He has some very interesting notes on the early history of Freeport but, he admits himself, he should have taken a correspondence course in poetry writing. Barratt's books are available in Grand Bahama at Oasis drug store, the Rand Nature Centre, Bahamian Tings and the Garden of the Groves shops. In Nassau his books are available at most bookshops on the island.
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