The Weekend Post - Cairns Eye - - Front Page - WORDS// RACHAEL JANSEN

Idis­tinctly re­mem­ber my fam­ily’s first tele­phone. It was bright red – fire-truck red – with a dial face and our phone num­ber was 86 4431. The phone had the tra­di­tional ring­tone... which was the only ring­tone. When it rang, it sounded like a phone, not a techno rave.

I rarely used it, save for the oc­ca­sional call to the 2LM ra­dio sta­tion re­quest line on a Sat­ur­day night. Kids didn’t have free reign of tele­phones in those days – a phone call was some­thing you had to ask per­mis­sion to make and re­quired de­tails of who you were ring­ing and why. To have a con­ver­sa­tion in pri­vate, you took 20 cents to a phone box. Oh the teenage mem­o­ries of hang­ing out in that lit­tle glass cu­bi­cle, feet up on one glass wall and back against the other. It took ef­fort in those days to make a call, and there was an eti­quette about mak­ing them.

When you phoned some­one, it was at re­spectable hours. If they weren’t home or avail­able, it was up to you to try again. Or wait to see them at school (what a novel idea!). There were no phone calls home from the of­fice. I never once saw ei­ther of my par­ents take a work call at home.

Now though, the phone never stops, thanks to the mo­bile. Ping­ing, ding­ing and ring­ing like that techno rave, with mes­sages con­stantly left.

No longer is there a thought about ring­ing at a con­ve­nient time. The onus of the re­turn call is now passed on to an equally busy per­son at the other end.

Now that peo­ple can leave a mes­sage, send a text and an email to match, the bur­den of the re­turn phone call is enor­mous. The re­turn phone call re­quest passes on one per­son’s ur­gency and pri­or­ity to some­one else. I’ve started plac­ing strict bound­aries around my phone and en­forc­ing some phone eti­quette for my own san­ity. Don’t take of­fence if I don’t ring you back. It’s not you... it’s ev­ery­one. My phone stays on silent un­less I’m avail­able. I’ve stopped an­swer­ing the phone out­side of work hours, so if you ring me when I’m do­ing the school run, cook­ing din­ner or push­ing the shop­ping trol­ley, you won’t get me. And I don’t put pres­sure on my­self to re­turn ev­ery call – I’d be on the phone all day if I tried. I start at the top of the list and if I run out of time, I work on the as­sump­tion that if it’s im­por­tant, you’ll call again or send an email. Now, as for those emails... I’ll get back to you on that topic later.

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