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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

How To Make Friends by Telephone

Well, no one currently knows how to make friends in any setting, public or private, so I guess this pamphlet from the 1940s might be useful again. Or not.

I just sort of scratch my head about how people communicate nowadays. The average American is basically terrified of the telephone. They’ll send pictures of their private parts to people they haven’t met, but answering a ringing phone and talking to a stranger is beyond them. Anybody younger than a Rubik’s cube figures texting is the only way to communicate with other people. See: They Call Me Captain Kirk for an old exposition on the text-mess recipe. But honestly, they’re not very good at texting, either. If they could make themselves understood by typing little messages on a baby corn keyboard, they wouldn’t need emojis, would they?

This booklet from the 1940s is actually quite useful, no matter what the twitterati might say about it. I went looking around to see if there was someone I could credit for digging it up, but all I found were Gen Xers and younger mocking it. They wondered how dumb people had to be to need instructions on how to talk properly on the phone. It escaped every one of them that they are entirely incapable of doing it themselves. I know they can’t talk properly on the phone, without ever talking to them, because I haven’t spoken to anyone who knows how to make themselves understood on the phone for decades. They might be the exception, but I am beset by doubts.

I’m hardly a luddite in this regard. I understand the need for call screening, etc., in the age of robocalls. I don’t answer my phone much, or carry it around, because I don’t want to, not because I can’t. That’s not what I’m talking about. I know how to talk properly on the phone, coming and going, including (especially) in a business setting. I have a business phone number, all digital, that transcribes every voicemail and texts or emails it to me. It’s hilarious to read what people, who talk on the phone for a living, mind you, sound like when transcribed. I received several voicemails from someone at Microsoft about a Bing Ads account I ran for a client of mine. Every time, the transcription read, “This is (so and so), I’m calling about your big ass.” Every time.

It’s also instructive that everyone online mistakes this pamphlet for literally “making friends” using the phone, like some kind of primitive Tinder app. The pamphlet is obviously a training method for receiving and placing calls to businesses. It’s a series of excellent tips on making yourself understood on the phone, and projecting a friendly demeanor in return to someone who has no visual cues to rely on to assess what you’re saying, and how you’reĀ  saying it. It puts me in mind of lots of useful informational videos. Things like Coronet films. They have titles like How To Improve Your Personality, How To Be Well Groomed, Dating Do’s and Don’ts, What Is Money? and Everyday Courtesy. Coronet films were made for our parent’s generation, but we’d occasionally get a look at one when my high school teachers were really hung over and wanted to dim the lights and sleep a little.

These are universally mocked by everyone on the internet, but I’ve been to Walmart, and believe me, no one has any personality, no one is groomed at all, never mind well-groomed, and everyday courtesy is scarcer than something to eat at a vegan barbecue. And as far as “What is Money?”, it was appropriate for my parent’s generation because they were poor and they’d never seen money. Walmart shoppers seem to have plenty, comparatively. They just don’t spend any of it on soap or combs or pants without elastic waistbands.

[Hey, Hank christened my new KoFi Buy Me a Coffee tip jar! Many thanks!]

2 Responses

  1. This one did it. It made we want to donate. In the past, I have successfully fought off such impulses but this one was too good.

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