My 70th birthday is creeping up on me with all the stealth of a semi-trailer. Before that day arrives, I would like to point out To Whom It May Concern that I am becoming increasingly intolerant of the reluctance of the young to address us mature folk with respect. I shall rant loud and long on behalf of all similarly insulted ladies of advancing years, hoping that one or two snappy young lads in the telemarketing industry will listen and, perhaps, learn.
‘Am I speaking to Mary Warwick?’
”You are speaking to Mrs Warwick. Do I know you?’
‘Hi, Mary. My name’s Simon and I’m calling from the Save the Tea Lady Foundation. Can we count on your support today?’
‘No. We haven’t been introduced and I don’t know you. You don’t sound old enough to call me by my Christian name.’
Smart young, upwardly mobile lad he might be, but he isn’t listening. He also doesn’t realise that he’s getting nothing from me because he’s too thick to learn a little telephone etiquette.
My rant includes those young receptionists in every institution from hairdressers to hospitals, who loudly and publicly call, ‘Rita, Doctor will see you now.’ Where are their manners? I notice they never call the medic by his Christian name. You never hear, ‘Winifred, Clive’s free now.’
I recently had occasion to collect some documents from a solicitor’s coven. The receptionist – all 17 years of her – asked my name.
‘What’s your first name?’
‘There might be two Mrs Warwicks.’
‘Unlikely in a small town like this.’
‘I still need it.’
Taking a deep breath, she warbled loud and clear, ‘Mary Warwick to pick up some docs!’
At least when I’m running late for my flight at Sydney the lady on the public address has the decency to call, ‘Passenger Warwick.’
I have tried to understand how such basic manners as proper and respectful forms of address have slipped so tragically and, apparently, irretrievably from our society. It’s not the fault of working parents. Both my parents worked – and were quite unable to keep track of me because mobile phones and smart phones hadn’t been invented back then. Might television be to blame?
Sadly, it’s unlikely that we shall ever turn the clock back, and in some respects that’s not such a bad thing. I shall, however, continue to challenge every young telemarketer in the vain hope that just one of them may realise that you catch more flies with honey than ever you will with vinegar.