Sorry, I don’t get calls on this phone often

Many years ago, I was in a small meeting: It consisted of the project manager, me, and one other person. Just a quick little status meeting to discuss how things were going. We were a few minutes into the meeting when the project manager's cell phone rang. Now, this was back in the days before cell phones were ubiquitous. They were pretty spendy gadgets; pulling out your shiny $400 Nokia 8810 was an ostentatious move, allowing you to demonstrate your alpha position in the social hierarchy.

Anyway, when the cell phone rang, the project manager answered it and started talking. After a little while, it became clear to me that this person was taking the call without so much as a "Would you excuse me for a few minutes?", so I headed down to the lobby and read the newspaper for a while.

When I returned, the project manager explained, "Sorry, I don't get calls on this phone often."

I replied, "That's okay. I don't read The Wall Street Journal often."

Comments (7)
  1. Robert says:

    Nothing annoys me more than being in my bank, and waiting in line to talk to a desk person.  Getting to the desk, in the chair, halfway through explaining whatever issue…

    Then their phone rings, and they answer, and talk, and talk.

    PARDON me?!?  I waited in line.  Dump them to voicemail..

    Sometimes I just reach over and hit the hangup switch.  But that call could have been important!

    Yes, and my business is not?

    Erm.. is the usual answer.

    Phone calls are NOT a non maskable interrupt.  They are a time saver.  But not at the expense of someone there in person, who has waited in line.

    Phone calls do not go to the front of the queue.

    On assignment, all this time is billable, so I say nothing..

  2. John says:

    Wow.  I understand what you are saying, but reaching over the counter and hanging them up is a total douche move.

  3. Mike Dunn says:

    Back in about 1997 or 98, I was in a big meeting (my entire team, ~100 people) where the president of the company was talking to us. He got a call on his cell, and answered it and hastily told the caller he would return the call later.

    Someone sitting near me joked that the president should have said "I told you never to call me on this number!"

  4. Jim Buck says:

    Maybe 5 years ago, when cell phone were more ubiquitous, I was in a meeting of about 10 or 15 people. We were each going around the table giving status updates.

    One guy was giving his update when his cell phone rang. He stopped giving his update and answered the phone! He even started talking to the guy while the rest of us were just staring in disbelief.

    What felt like minutes, but was probably more like 20 or 30 seconds, he finally told him he’ll call him back later. Then he continued his status update as though nothing happened.

  5. Jonathan says:

    My friend told me that after waiting for the banker to take 2 phone calls, he proceeded to call the banker himself. When the banker asked "what are you doing?", he said "that’s the only way I can talk with you". The point got across.

    So .gov offices here have separate hours for in-person and phone service. I consider that – or having separate people – a good practice.

  6. Mark (the second?) says:

    Robert: the fact that you’re *in* a bank betrays that you have too much free time.  I shall never be happier than when all services move online.

    It’s the same as council services in UK: they only operate at awkward hours and require you to value your time at close to zero, so they have no incentive to act efficiently.  I suspect it’s intentional.

  7. mare says:

    It’s rather common for professors at my faculty to answer the phone in the middle of the lecture in front of a room, full of students, and tell the caller they will call them back. It was akward at first, to say the least, but now, sadly, we got used to it.

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