Phone EtiquetteYour ringtone says a lot about you; so does your ring back tone. People, especially strangers, will read a lot into the kind of person you could be, just from how your phone rings. The next time your phone rings to Wale’s Clappers or Ken wa Maria’s Fundamentals or whichever tune; think about what your callers are enduring or enjoying, to get through to you and the impression left. Unfortunately, our best songs might not necessarily reflect on our personality and image the best way. They last a few seconds but can influence how accommodative the other person (especially potential employers or future partners) at the end of the line will be to us. Regardless, the phone will ring, and you will answer.

Many times we receive calls from genuine wrong numbers (forget about Kamiti prisoners text messages that read— “You have won 100,000 cash money, call this number to send 25,000 to come pick your prize”, or dubious people calling to say they wrongfully sent you credit or Mpesa). Genuine wrong number callers can be as hilarious and annoying as it gets. Once, a Somali man called me angrily demanding, “Tulituma ngamia, wapi pesa ya ngamia? (We sent the money, where are the camels?)”. Most recently, I was vexed by the food delivery man at our office for selling me some strange type of half-cooked beans instead of peas. I read out and dialed the man’s number from the food company’s brochure furiously trembling, and started ranting at hello, “Chakula chako hakiliki, I need a refund or the food I actually ordered for and won’t take any other thing!” The guy on the other line, shocked at my persistence and the wrath of a hungry and angry woman (double tragedy) shuddered, “Aki mami niko Eastleigh, walahi sijawahi uza chakula (Wrong number, I have never vended food). After an embarrassed apology, I thought that was over and done with. But the guy would keep calling and texting me insistently. One day he sent me a text – “Are you married, I am single”. I had to reply, “Yes and my husband doesn’t like me texting you” and he forever retreated.

Then there’s the nightmare of losing and acquiring phone contacts. Because of this, we all receive calls/texts from foreign numbers. What do you do or say upon answering? Usually I politely ask, “Who am I speaking to?” or state “Sorry I seem not to have this number.” A normal person should always introduce themselves on and off phone, it’s just courteous. However, there are people with the below 5 bad phone habits who obnoxiously think they are exceptions to the rules.

1. “Guess tu ni nani?”

In such times of economic hardship, if you are going to start calling someone for teasing purposes in the middle of the day, then you ought to get a job or at least spend your credit money wisely. Nobody has time for such old tricks. And when they do, it gets particularly awkward if the receiver guesses at least thrice wrong or a name that the caller recognizes and doesn’t remind them of good things. For instance ex-boyfriend Alex (random name) tries to change voice to see if you might guess it right and then you end up guessing its ex-ex-boyfriend Joe (another random name).

2. “You don’t have my no.!? Kwani you deleted my no.!?”

The only people allowed to ask such questions should be your family (parents, wife, husband or children). What makes some people outside this mix feel like they are too important that you must have their numbers? You will find that you already have most numbers that are important to you, and if there is anyone else so important that you must have their number, when in need – go get it! Recently thought I exchanged numbers with a colleague but unfortunately didn’t get to saving his. After responding to his “Bible quoted” Happy New Year text message with a “Thanks, sorry I don’t seem to have this number,” he responded – “Now you don’t have my number yet I gave it to you just the other day!?” If you’re going to be mad at me about your text message, at least custom draft mine before that.

3. You have 10 Missed Calls 

Sometimes you are taking a dump, or in a noisy as hell matatu, or in a very important meeting, or church even but on the other end of the line, the caller just won’t stop calling. The other day, I got some serious bashing from my buddy Bien for calling him five times. “Rosey – you don’t call me five times on seeing that I am busy, you wait and I will call you back!” He barked at me. But when I told him that I couldn’t have waited a minute longer to tell him that our former house help had given birth to a baby boy named after him, Bien Aime Alusa Gift – he forgave me. If it’s not about death, new life or something that’s life changing or threatening; try dropping a text when a call goes unanswered.  It’s as simple as “Hi. I am so and so and would like to talk to you regarding such and such. Kindly return my call or let me know when is best to call.”

4. “Just saw you, you look nice.”

It’s not romantic but creepy to send girls text messages wherever you see them at the bus stop, at the club or wherever. It’s actually courteous to walk up to them and say hello. That’s the essence of bumping into each other. I am just about done with the “I can see you” texts. I can also see a lot of people but if you’re not going to add, “Was in a hurry or didn’t want to disturb your peace or whatever else” to that text; keep it to yourself.

5. “Are you asleep? Where are you?”

A booty call is a booty call. No man or woman calling/texting you any time after 1 a.m. wants to just check up on you. They probably want to check in as well. The sooner we all learn to ask for what we want, the faster we’ll get it or move on to someone who will give it to us. In 2014 this business for always asking people if they are awake at 2 a.m. should stop.

Parting Shot

Phone Etiquette 2So when does phone etiquette start and end? It must be from the moment you hold your phone. Have you seen some people talking through the phone while it’s upside down? Or shouting at it as if it’s on speaker while it isn’t? It’s so sad that in 2014, the year of Digitalization in Kenya, these kinds of scenarios still occur. It’s going to be an uphill task following through etiquette if you can’t even hold your phone right.

Upon calling or being asked to reveal your identity, introduce yourself and the reason for calling, that’s perfectly alright. Return texts and missed calls in due time.

It’s very rude to be on speaker phone in a public place like a bank, work place or a matatu. Nobody wants to hear your conversations; they have theirs too, via the handset.

You have an iPod to throw all your musical picks to be heard at your convenience. So for your every-day attitude, ringtone and ring back tone; pick one that you and the world at large can stomach. There’s a very thin line between making a person’s day and ruining it, so let not your tunes play part and parcel, undesirably. If all fails, leave on your phone’s generic tones or vibrate.

Be humble and remember that in the eyes of the world’s millions of people, we are mere ants, working themselves around their colonies, trying to make ends meet. We will never all know each other but the more we do, the better we make the world. So no matter how many times you have had to introduce yourself to someone on or off phone, just keep doing it. Other people might actually be meeting more people than you do on an average, and if you don’t leave a lasting first-time impression, congratulations! You have the chance to re-work the magic at your phone’s first ring.

BONUS: You might also like to read: What if Courtesy had a price?

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