Recently, I punched in a telephone number; a man answered and said, “Hello.”
After a brief pause, I said, “ This is David Hunter. “Mike?”
After another brief pause, and he said, “No, it’s Richard.”
“Sorry,” I told him, “I apparently dialed the wrong number.”
“Not a problem,” he said. “You have a good day.”
“You, too,” I said and broke the connection, amazed at the man’s courtesy. It’s not often you run across courteous people these days — even in the South. Manners have declined a lot in my lifetime.
Exactly when my parents taught me telephone etiquette, I don’t remember. It was probably in the general time frame of when they taught me to say. “Please and “Thank you” and “Yes sir” or “Ma’am,” as the case may be.
My sense of proper address is till so strong that it was 20 years before I would call my former police supervisor Bill Wilson by his first name. Until then, he was “Captain.” He wouldn’t have objected — and didn’t when it finally happened — but he wasn’t just my boss, but also a man I still view with respect.
When I was about 40 and video rental stores were popping up everywhere, I received a telephone call. Without preliminaries, the caller said, “David, you haven’t returned your latest video rental.”
A bit surprised it took me a second to realize who the caller was because he sounded about 15 years old — and he was. He worked in his father’s new store, which like all new businesses was desperate for customers.
“That would be because I rented the video for 24 hours and I still have six hours to go. I’ll drop it off on my way to work,” I said.
“All right, David. We’ve just found that we don’t have as many later returns if we remind people ahead of time,” he said.,”
In the living room I put the tape in its cover, cut my membership card in half and put it in an envelope along with a note that said, “Sir, you need to teach your son how to address his elders. Also, I would suggest that your policy of “reminding” customers well ahead of time to bring back their videos will cost you more business than you save.”
The father and owner probably didn’t get it. The business went under after a few weeks. Courtesy counts.