Monday, 28 May 2007

"Slamming" published May 27

I’m not sure what the equivalent of slamming a phone down on someone was before they invented phones, but I’m sure it was something like slamming a door, or slamming a Bible closed or just slamming someone in the face.
Because the act of slamming down the phone is hostile. [can’t have a hostile art]. It leaves the person on the other end feeling rejected and every one of us sits there and stares at the phone in our hand in some misguided belief that it’s a technical fault. We hold it up to our ear again and say ‘hello?” even though we really know that the other person has slammed us. It might have had something to do with their last two words which began with “f” and ended with “u.” Or the fact that you were only half way through your treatise on the injustices that have been meted out upon yourself in recent days.
Some of us respond by ringing back and attempting to continue that conversation, of which there is a 99.9% chance of that happening while others simply dial our best friend and say: “I can’t believe he/she hung up on me!” before detailing the entire conversation and implying that the slammer was the loser.
Being slammed is still one of the rudest things anyone can do to you apart from getting out of bed and putting their clothes back on half way through sex, or leaving a restaurant in the middle of an intimate dinner for two. These actions break the rules of engagement and there are few things left in life that actually involve engagement. Conversation in person is a dying art as anyone who has recently been to a party will admit, wrestling just isn’t cool and sex with strangers is problematic. The most common form of engagement these days is on the telephone where we are giving each other our undivided attention, guaranteeing a few minutes or more of information swapping and leaving us both feeling a little better for the experience. So breaking that agreement is just plain nasty.
Deeper analysis of the slammer will reveal that they are certainly frustrated, probably angry and most likely couldn’t think of anything to say. If only real conversation were that simple. How useful would it be when you reach that crucial place in the arc of a heated discussion when you know you’ve lost? When you’re on the wrong side of the Bell curve and the only way is down, disappearing into thin air would be a merciful escape rather than having to do the mature thing and admit you were wrong or as I prefer to say: “I’m so over this conversation, I’ll get back to you.”
I’m deeply ashamed to admit that I am a slammer. It’s been a lifelong passion which began very early on with doors.
Phone slamming was a natural progression from doors, but you only do it with someone you care about. We never slam on the telemarketer ringing during dinner, we’re just too polite. But the boyfriend who went to the rugby instead of coming around to watch Four Weddings and A Funeral is fair game. As is the first husband who you know will slam on you first if you don’t get in soon. But you never slam on your grandmother or your best friend’s relationship crisis. That’s a different kind of phone etiquette involving holding it to your ear while you read a magazine and saying “mm” and “really” and “imagine that” during the three pauses in the half hour conversation. That’s called false engagement and along with faking an orgasm is just as rude as slamming, if only they knew you were doing it. I’ve done less slamming as I’ve got older, mainly because the only person I care enough to slam on refuses to play. He simply ignores it, gets on with his life and waits until I eventually need to phone back to remind him to get some milk on the way home. It’s only slightly annoying that at the age of 45 my husband’s parenting rule of not reinforcing bad behaviour in children is being used on me and working.
But the other day I got slammed. I was in the middle of reminding a friend to use the phrase: “And how was your day?” at least once in a conversation.
“You’d miss it if I didn’t ring,” he said, under the illusion that I needed yet more tedium in my obviously sad life.
“What’s to miss?” I replied.
“Miss this!” Silence.
And I’ve been trying to, honestly.

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