04 December 2008
Hello? Hello! Hello?! Hello.
Some news: Roman Polanski and Viagra. I recently noticed that when I pick up the phone, I always say "hello?". And I guess that's a standard phone opener, very traditional. "Hello?" With that slight voice raise at the end, marking it as a question. Not a greeting, but rather a subtle query of "Who is this?". Although, in this cell phone age, I already know who is calling, because the name already showed up on my phone before I picked up. In fact, the name probably had something to do with whether or not I picked up at all! Then, why still the "hello?", why keep on with that age-old questioning tradition? Perhaps I'm masking other questions, like "What the hell do you want?" or "Are you going to cancel plans again?" or "Where have you been?". Or perhaps I just don't really put enough effort into answering the phone (considering everyone says I sound depressed every time I say "Hello?" "Hey, what's up?"). Or maybe I'm just stuck in a rut of tradition and routine. So next time I answer the phone, I will try to be sincere. If 1/3 of surveyed Brits can answer with casual phrases when they know who's calling, so can I! I will say "How are you?". I will say "How was your day?" I will say "Will you buy me a Dwarf Winter White Russian hamster???". I will say "Hello". Drop the lilt at the end. Drop the silent question. They never know what you're asking anyway, unless you say it directly. Just "Hello", as a greeting, as a salutation. Or, maybe even, "Hello X," where x represents the name of the caller. A personalized greeting, like the one you can put into your cell phone, in e-mails, on Christmas cards (Speaking of, I was reading about Christmas newsletters on the Always Home and Uncool blog - which is always a really great read - and I must admit, I've never thought about sending out holiday newsletters. I mean, usually I either go with cards or letters - with the usual phrases like "Happy Holidays" and "Hope you enjoy the gift" and lots of little stickers and drawings to take up space - but I never considered sending out an newsletter to tell people what's new in my life. Then again, I'd probably only reach about four words: "Hello! Nothing new! Goodbye!" Look, even my half-assed Christmas newsletter would get a real "Hello", with an exclamation point, no less!) That's it. I have no choice now. Next phone call, you'll hear it, "Hello!". Just wait for it. Maybe I'll expand to other languages : "Hola!" "Szia!" "Yo". But part of me mourns the loss of this satisfying phone-opener. That silent question, raising up at the end despite being dragged down by the weight of every little word you can't quite bring yourself to say. Like "Why won't you stop calling me?" or "Don't you know I don't want to talk to you?" or "Is it too obsessive if I ask what you're doing this weekend?" or "Do you have any idea how many times I picked up this phone and almost called you?" or "Can I live without you?". Think of all that hidden meaning, lost. All of that subtext. Maybe I'll solve this problem by doing like the Hungarians, and saving my "Hello" for the end of the conversation, when I really mean "Goodbye."