Hello, Harbury 613304, Anna speaking…

OMIGOD. I haven’t spoken, or even thought about that sentence for twenty-five years. I can’t believe that old phone number is even still there in my spongey ol’ brain.

My parents taught me how to answer the phone politely and clearly from a very young age. You must state the location of the house where you live and the phone number of the house where you live and who you are in the house where you live, thereby giving the caller three sources of information by which to decide if they have the right number.

This phone-practice died out around the time weather presenters stopped sticking cardboard clouds on to a cardboard map; ie when computers and satellites started taking over the world and making us all unhumanish and roboty and unable to speak to each other properly.

I mean, NOBODY speaks on the phone anymore, right?

Clarification: an estimated 12.4 billion phone calls are made every day.

Ok, but I bet they’re mostly work calls. We’ve totally ignored the advice of Bob Hoskins that ‘it’s good to talk’ and now it’s all texts and emails. I mean we’ve totally lost the ancient art of talking on the ACTUAL PHONE, haven’t we?

Clarification: the telephone was invented in 1876 which means it’s been around for just 140 years. To put it into perspective, we’ve been mooching about the planet for around two million years, and the phone has been a feature for just 0.0007% of that time.

Ok smarty-pants who’s been on Wikipedia all morning, what about LETTERS, eh? Nobody writes letters anymore! Everyone’s just swiping at screens and getting thumb-arthritis all the time.

Clarification: the first recorded hand-written letter was sent in 500BC by the Persian Queen Atossa (excellent name) which is just 0.1258% of our time on earth. Stamped letters as we know them today kicked off in 1840 (a mere 0.0088%).

These tools for communication are actually NEW. They’ve been lovely, but are in fact, fleeting versions of the same thing, teeny episodes in time where this was how we communicated before we moved on to new tools.

We don’t need to rub sticks together to make fire anymore unless we’re camping and trying to teach our sprogs survival techniques in the event of an apocalypse.

We don’t need to hold paper in our hands to share information or feelings. 

We don’t need to speak into a device to make contact with other humans.

I never answer the home phone anymore because the only people who make calls to it are sales personnel or my mother-in-law and whilst it’s sad to miss out on a potential opportunity for a good chat, the risk of it being my mother-in-law is too great to bear…

Texting is a tremendous development in our ability to communicate. My contact with my Dad has massively increased since we could text, email, whatsapp and facebook message each other. Seeing which method of communication the other will choose on any given day is rather thrilling for us both.

And who can fault the extraordinary power of a text-row with your partner? Sending a blank text message is the ultimate rebuke, far better than slamming a door. Or following an in-person row that morning, sending: ‘could you please bring home some fags and wine tonight if it’s not too much trouble for you as I know how very busy you are, you selfish, incompetent arsehole’ is a superb way to clear the air and ensure a wonderful evening ahead.

However, the art of answering the phone adequately is definitely dying. The other day I had to ring a plumber. It was a mobile number because most plumbers no longer have a receptionist (wife) manning (womaning?) the home number. It rang, and he picked up and said, ‘yep’.

Yep?

YEP??

He could have been ANYONE. Maybe I’d accidentally phoned a teenaged boy? Or a criminal waiting for his tip-off? Or a politician expecting a call from his drug-dealer?

After the yep, the onus was firmly on me to clarify for him my status as a potential customer but I was so thrown by the yep that I just hung up.

He could have had me at ‘hello’…