Asking Callers Who They Are -- When They Assume You Know
DEAR MISS MANNERS: 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 This practice seems to have fallen out of date; when I answer the phone, very few of my callers introduce themselves.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. 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 it has not been done. Miss Manners suggests you defuse the situation with, Excuse me, but I have an old-fashioned telephone. With whom am I speaking? While it is strangely considered insulting (or self-deprecating) to label a person old-fashioned, it should not hurt your telephone.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I discovered a lady's wallet lying on the ground in the parking lot of a grocery store. I examined the contents and found that it contained a driver's license, credit cards, insurance cards, a vaccination certificate and other important forms of identification -- but no money.
Her address was nearby, and I was able to get her phone number online, so I called to tell her that I'd found her wallet and would drive over to return it. She sounded excited and grateful, but when I arrived, she immediately inspected it to see how much money was there before giving me a disappointed look.
I explained that I'd found the wallet empty of cash, but she seemed unsatisfied, perhaps silently wondering if I'd taken what had been there. She then handed me a dusty bottle of wine as a gift and thanked me again, quickly escorting me to the door.
I like helping others, and do not subscribe to the adage that no good deed goes unpunished. However, I wonder how I could have handled this situation differently. Should I have just mailed the wallet anonymously rather than returning it in person?
I don't necessarily need to be rewarded for doing the right thing -- however, I don't want to be scrutinized as a potential criminal for doing so, either.
GENTLE READER: You and Miss Manners have in common not wanting to punish good deeds, so perhaps you can also agree that virtue can be its own reward. As in: She thanked you, perhaps not as graciously as she could have, but you still did the right thing.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)
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