I went on a job interview recently which started nearly a half hour late. The interviewer, a portly woman wearing attire very obviously from a not-so-recent line of women’s clothing from a variety, drug, or discount store, left me sitting in the lobby of the business while she had her acrylic nails filled and polished across the street. I know this because as she approached me in the very lobby where my own nails were beginning to grow, she loudly declared, while holding her arms out at her sides in a Christ-like position, “I can’t shake your hand, I just had my nails done!”
She obviously found nothing wrong with leaving a potential new employee—someone whom she should have been trying to sell all the positive points about the company to, sitting and waiting, while she made worthless, not to mention outdated, minor improvements to her appearance, which didn’t even begin to correct all that was wrong with her. Although I readily relieved her of any worry over making me sit and wait, I was already on a rampage in my mind, and began dismissing the probability that I would accept this job, if offered.
The probability was firmly dismissed as soon as she decided she needed to check her e-mail each time a message came in. The little “ding” sound on her computer proved too hard to resist and resulted in her whipping her head towards the screen as if surprised and delighted that anyone had remembered to include her in their mass mailing or lunch invite. She topped this communication sundae off with a big cell phone cherry, when she answered her cell phone while I was mid sentence in an answer to one of her demanding questions. Of course she did the most polite thing she probably knew how to do—she raised one chubby, pink, freshly coated in acrylic finger at me, suggesting that I should again wait. The call was short lived, and she did turn her back to me-for whose privacy I’m not sure—it just steamed me more, and proved her total ignorance and need to exert power by PDA usage.
The story, although ridiculous, is nothing that is surprising. In fact, we all face it in our daily life each time we attempt to communicate with someone. It irks me to no end that people I know and love would probably ignorantly do the same to me or anyone else that interfered with their potential for talking to someone better or more productive.
How many times have you been talking with someone and just as you’re about to complete a sentence they cut in, excited, and near breathless with, “Oh—wait, someone else is on the other line, I have to go” or “Wait, hold on, someone is on the other line, I’ll be right back.” You’re left almost embarrassed, holding a phone to your ear, with no one on the other end of the line, because usually the rushed comment is followed by an equally rushed and unconvincing, “Okay, okay, alright, talk to you later.” Likewise goes for the moments when the person on the other end of the line disrupts conversation by having a discussion with someone else; yelling at a dog, answering another body in the house, or screaming at the television. Do people realize how rude that is?
Of course you get an obligatory, “Sorry, what were you saying … so and so had to ask me something … ” Terrible. Of course there are the Blackberry users who are never really with you, no matter where you are or what you’re doing. Anyone who is addicted to e-mail to the degree of needing to carry it with them wherever they go should consider medication—especially since most e-mail replies made are a simple, “Yes”, “No”, or other monosyllabic word, leaving the writer to wonder if the entire e-mail was read, or just the last line skimmed. And don’t forget text messages, blue tooth, and short attention spans; between the lot of them, no one is being heard and we’re all being insulted.
Well, I vowed a long time ago not to be the person that cuts another off, that doesn’t acknowledge an e-mail properly, or that dismisses one person for another. I can say that I did, the other day, interrupt a conversation with a friend because someone insisted on calling relentlessly while I was on the phone, not recognizing that I wasn’t clicking over for a reason. I felt bad; I still do.
What is my point? My point is just as it reads above—the interruptions are obnoxious, irritating, rude, and something that we all should have learned long ago how to handle in a more proper and civil way. Call waiting is not new. Having more than one person in your presence is not an odd occurrence, and we all know now that anything sent via e-mail can usually wait for a decent response. We should remember the days when the phone would ring and someone in the house would yell, “I’ll get it,” rather than, “Oh God, who’s calling us now?” and screening people out.
Think about the days when you would receive a letter in the mail from a friend or family member, and it would be two to three pages long, detailing experiences, funny stories, and requesting advice. And then recall the time you took to sit down, in a quiet place, and respond—yes actually respond to a letter in writing, making actual sentences, and forwarding your ideas and feelings to someone who you knew would read them and in turn respond to you. Birthday cards weren’t e-card sent to an inbox with images of stick figures doing crude things or popping out of a box with a sentence written above them wishing you best greetings on your special day. Even just a few years ago people would go to the store, stand in front of a wall of cards, and select one that was ultimately perfect, in their minds, for the person celebrating the occasion. Even the color of the envelope was up for decision. It made a person feel good. Now, it’s all about what’s free, and doesn’t cause you to register—and everyone knows that—no one is slipping under the radar with the free e-card. And that doesn’t make anyone feel anything, especially not good.
We’ve lost our sense of sentimentality, and have given away our ability to concentrate on one thing at a time. I think we should all buy etiquette books, artful conversation books, stationary, or greeting cards, and get back to what is really important—not just answering as many e-mails as possible and getting people off the phone as quickly as possible. We might surprise each other.
Speaking of surprises, after my interview with the lumpy woman with the fake nails and cheap clothes, I sent her an e-mail advising her that I felt our work styles were too different and that a match we did not make. I requested that I be removed from any further consideration for the position. It took her three days to do it, but she responded, in a “proper way” with, “Thank you for your frankness.” I was quite surprised that she responded at all, although not surprised that the power struggle continued—proven by her blatant display of lagging in the response—but ultimately very glad I wasn’t just ignored.