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9.21.2011

EMILY POST WHERE ARE YOU?

I would like to take this opportunity with a captive audience to step on the band wagon about an issue.  My first parenthesis is this; I know we live in a very informal culture presently.  Which is evidenced in many ways - less business attire, more casual ways of dressing, the emergence of urban words and phrases, the rise of social media sites, gaming, fast food, Walmart:), and technology which allows everything and everyone instanteously at our fingertips (knowledge, people, products & pleasures).   My ending parenthesis is this; Culture should not change people etiquette - relationships.  It should not trump attentiveness, being present, people skills.  The other morning while getting ready for work my husband asked me, "If you are at work and a client is standing in front of you talking to you, and the phone rings what would you do?"  Without skipping a beat I said, "I would continue talking to the client who was in my physical presence even if I saw on caller id who the caller was - even if I really needed to talk to the caller.  I would call the person back immediately after the other client left."   Who of you, by leaving me a comment, can say you have been in a store, a doctor's office, etc... in the flesh somewhere in the middle of a transaction with a clerk, a nurse and the phone rings and you are dumped/ignored while they answer the phone?  I have taken the time to - in the flesh - drive there to transact business and am trumped by a phone call!   I really think Emily Post, from the grave, (famous author 1872-1960 who wrote on etiquette) needs to comment on this rash of inconsiderate communication in our culture.  The worst culprit of inter personal skills etiquette would be the invention of texting and emails on cell phones.  When cell phones were invented they were that - mobile PHONES which allowed you to call and receive telephone/verbal calls away from a land line.  That was Pandora's box in terms of what they have done to our social skills.  I have sat with people in a restaurant, at a family gathering, around my own table that cannot put their phone down.  They are either constantly checking it or it is constantly buzzing with emails and texts.  At first I thought it was just a younger generation thing as my own daughter and nieces are more apt to conversationate with that gadget than be present at the table in conversation:)  But lately, I have noticed it has sucked in older generations.  Last night we had company over.  Purposefully we invited this person over, made a meal, and wanted to spend some time with them.  As the evening wore on I found myself getting angry.  The gentleman laid his IPhone on the table, leaving it on vibrate facing up.  He proceeded to answer a call, have a lengthy conversation while sitting at our table with the person on the phone.  That I passed off as possibly he had needed to get in touch with this person and they were finally calling back (though I would not lay my phone on the table of someone who had invited me to dinner...it would be in my purse on silent).  He began to get other calls, which he did not take but that he would look at the phone as it was ringing to see who it was.  Texts were pouring in and he responded to a few while we were talking or while he was talking to us.  I felt that everything was more important than what was in front of him.  To be honest, it offended me greatly.  I thought his behavior was rude, disrespectful, and ungrateful.  Have we really ended up in a culture that devalues manners when in people's presence because we have access to so much at one time?   It smacks of "the grass is greener on the other side" syndrome.  Technology can, without us evening realizing it, take center stage of real relationships which involve presence and conversation and more than 20 words typed on a screen.  I wanted to be a police officer last night in a hostage situation picking up my bull horn and screaming, "PUT DOWN YOUR CELL PHONE.  SLIDE IT ACROSS THE TABLE TO ME AND BE PRESENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

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