DEAR MISS MANNERS: Although I would like to classify myself as middle-aged, it appears that I am “old-fashioned.” I do not have a cellphone. I do not have caller identification. I do not have an answering machine.
When I receive a phone call, I have no technological assistance in identifying the caller. My parents instructed me to always begin a phone call by identifying myself, such as: “This is Kristen; may I speak with…”
This practice seems to have fallen out of date. When I answer the phone, very few of my callers introduce themselves.
Although I do recognize the voices of family and close friends, there are many callers whose voices are unfamiliar, prompting me to ask, “With whom am I speaking?” My question is often followed with a pause, as if I have just insulted the caller by not recognizing their voice or their identity.
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Have the rules changed? Is it still appropriate to identify oneself at the commencement of a phone call?
GENTLE READER: It is always polite to identify oneself, but in these days of nearly ubiquitous caller identification, people have begun to assume that the technology has done that for them. The caller may not even realize he is being rude.
Miss Manners suggests that you defuse the situation by invoking a problem that even those with the very latest technology will understand: “Excuse me, but I’m having some problem on this end — who’s calling, please?” They will assume it has to do with poor reception, weak battery life and other such up-to-date travails.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: How do I ask co-workers visiting my area not to sit on my desk or table behind my desk? I often eat lunch at my desk, and eating my meal where someone sat is unappealing.
I do not have room to add a guest chair, so that is not an option. I don’t understand why someone thinks it acceptable to park their rear on my workspace.
GENTLE READER: Are there papers or books on your desk? If there are not, Miss Manners suggests you add some.
You can then realize that you need to refer to one of these items while a co-worker is visiting. The second or third time you have politely relocated visitors, they will begin to catch on. But you might also invest in a folding chair that can be propped against the wall near the entrance.
How late is late?
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it polite to be 15 minutes late?
GENTLE READER: To what?
Your wedding? No.
A film? Yes, if you are not meeting anyone and are annoyed by the advertisements and previews.
A dinner party? Fourteen minutes would pass muster, but for 15, only if you come in looking stricken with a boring story about the traffic, the late baby sitter and having forgotten to charge your cellular telephone.
Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, MissManners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.
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