Sunday, July 29, 2007


Hello. Who is it?

Light fare for a Sunday afternoon:

What's the protocol for identifying yourself when you call someone who you know has caller-ID?

When I was a child, I was taught to tell the person who answers the phone who you are, right away. “Hello. This is Barry Leiba, and I'd like to speak with Mr Biffelwogg.” Or, “Hi, it's Barry. How did the party go last week?” Even the nonsensical, “Hey, it's me,” serves the purpose, in the right circumstance.

But when I was a child, a telephone was a big, black thing with a dial full of holes on the front, your call was routed with mechanical relays, and no one ever imagined that you'd carry one in your pocket and know who every caller was before you answered. It's not uncommon, these days, to phone a friend and have him say, “Hi Barry, what's up?”, straight away.

But what if he doesn't? You call your bud's mobile, you know he's looked before he's answered, but he just says, “Hello.” Do you do the “Hey, it's Barry,” thing, assuming, of course, that your name is Barry? Is it now acceptable to just dive right into the meat of the call, at least with someone one's on familiar terms with, assuming that the initial ID has been taken care of? Or are we still supposed to pretend that technology is not our friend, and stick with the Emily Post recipe from days gone by?

I also note that before my time, the operator might have been listening in on your call, with the idea of picking up a tidbit or two of gossip. That won't happen now, but someone still might be listening in. Some things don't change much; technology just results in minor variations.


The Ridger, FCD said...

Yes, you should still ID yourself. It's part of the structure of the conversation, if nothing else: greeting, small talk, purpose, windup, farewell.

But it also serves the purpose of reassuring him that your phone wasn't stolen (or borrowed).

Yoshiko said...

I always identify who I am when I call someone with my mobile phone. Even it's my sister who I call, I do so, although I only say, "Hey, It's me". I agree that's mainly the part of the conversation structure, not for identifying me.

Regarding "eavesdropping", could you do that over the conversations with degital mobile phones ? I assume it's too hard to do that, right ?

The Ridger, FCD said...

I had to come back and look to make sure I'd phrased this right, and I'm not sure I did. Let me add this: pragmatics is important. Even if I know who you are, if you just leap straight into what you want without any greeting or small talk, it makes the conversation very different - abrupt and kind of rude.

choklit said...

A couple things... I believe that context is everything here. If I'm not surprised to get a call from Barry (e.g., we're each on the way to meeting up somewhere), he can just jump right into things, and indeed if he doesn't, it will seem as though he's stalling and about to give some unwanted news, such as his being late. If, however, I haven't heard from Barry in, say, seven years, then I'll certainly need some time to shift into a talk-to-Barry frame of mind so the opening preliminaries are quite in order.

D said...

Aside from identifying yourself in the name of simple good manners, many of us are at an age when reading glasses ae required, and most mobile phone displays are too small to read the ID. Unless my glasses are already perched on my head when I'm answering the phone, the caller ID only tells me whether or not the caller is already on my phone list.

choklit said...

Ooops -- I forgot the second thing (referred to in my original comment "A couple things...").

I have a friend who not infrequently says when he calls someone, "Hi, it's me; is that you?", which is totally nonsensical, but amusing just the same. :-)

Barry Leiba said...

OK, so the consensus is that, yes, we keep the verbal ID. I'm happy with that; I prefer that. Good!

Yoshiko: I don't know whether the US's "warrantless wiretapping" was done to mobile phones or not. Possibly not. And certainly, the smart "bad guys" have learned to use throw-away phones, which would pretty much avoid the problem anyway (the government wouldn't know what to snoop on until it was too late).

Oh, sure, if the call's really out of the blue (hm, seven years, hm), one would have to start slowly. Similarly, a business call needs a verbal ID even with the technological one. I was only really wondering about calling people with whom one was pretty familiar. And, "Is that you?", I like it; I might keep it. Reminds me of people who would call and say, "Where are you?", back when we only had landlines and the answer was quite obvious (the question really was, "Why are you not here?").

He-he-he... I hadn't thought about not being able to read the caller-ID display. He-he-he. But it's also the same if I'm using my Borg-like bluetooth headset. I can answer the phone by pressing the button on the ear-piece, without looking at the phone's screen (without removing the phone from its holster). If I do that, I have no idea who's calling.