Jan 23, 2023

Want To Get a Table? Try Phoning—Don’t Text, I.M. Or Dispatch Messenger Puffins

Rediscovering human contact: wotta concept!

By Ed Goldman

I’d like to introduce to my younger generation of readers—and reintroduce to my contemporary, not-as-old and magnificently mature readers—an amazing electronic device that will allow you to:

– Confirm social and business dates in real time; 

– Eliminate some of the mistakes made in ordering merchandise; and

– Help you clarify appointments with airlines, doctors, dentists, attorneys and auto mechanics.

I’m calling it…the telephone. 

Edgy Cartoon

Dizzy Signal

I’m not talking about the Smartphone, iPhone, Youphone or nonbinary Themphone. I don’t even mean land-line phones, which I haven’t owned one of for nearly six years—and only would so I could dial it to find my cellphone when the latter goes missing in action, which it does more than a Russian soldier.

To be as clear as I’m ever likely to get, I’m not talking specifically about Alexander Graham Bell’s brainstorm, which was amusingly called the ‘Ameche” in a different era because the actor Don Ameche had played Bell in a 1939 biopic, cleverly called “The Story of Alexander Graham Bell.”

And now that I think of it, isn’t it surprising that urban hipsters have yet to call a lightbulb the Edison (for its inventor), a radio The Marconi (or The Tesla, since he also invented one at about the same time)? However, I’m very glad we don’t call Tesla (the car) the Musk in honor of the Martian who didn’t invent it but takes credit for having done so. 

Sorry I put you on hold. Let’s really talk about how the telephone can make your life a lot easier—provided you can find the patience to wait for a vendor, nurse or government office to take your call. It doesn’t hurt to also find an HOV lane to your Zen state when the on-hold music begins—or even worse, the announcement repeated every 15 seconds, “Thank you for holding. Your call is important to us.” 

In the years I consulted with construction, signage and engineering firms, I heard a phrase more than once that I grew to appreciate: Try to get a neck to wring. 

Despite the sound if it, this wasn’t a call to violence: It was a figurative suggestion to not waste too much time relying on voice messages, emails, texts and other cyber media when you simply wanted to have someone who could be held accountable later if: (a) your car wasn’t ready on the day your repair shop said it would be; (b) your medical tests seem to have been lost in the system and oh-my-God-it’s-Friday-have-a-nice-weekend-and-start-calling-us-again-on-Monday-morning-at 6; and (c) the contractor didn’t show up in the approximate month he said he’d arrive.

I think it drives a few of my pals crazy (though for some, that’d be a short drive, indeed) when I book flights, rooms and ground transportation by calling a real person at the airline, hotel or car rental agency. I also do this when I make restaurant reservations, rather than use “Open Table” or any of the other online services—which include Eat App, Resy, Yelp, Table Agent, and Tablein; contrary to rumor, there are no reservation services called GoElsewhere, Does Never Work 4U? or Fahgeddaboutit (a New Jersey company). 

If you think you may take this most unorthodox route—of actually calling a real person and having a real conversation to produce a real result—I need to suggest one important step before you conclude your call: get that person’s name. And get the spelling. I mention the latter not because there are so many unusual given names out there (although there are) but because there are so few receptionists in the service or hospitality industry who’ve had the benefit of taking diction lessons. 

Think I’m overstating it? Ask one of them to pronounce Ameche.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).