Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Dial S for subtext

I've been listening in to a few phone calls this week - you could say it's something of a hobby. One of my earliest memories is lying in bed listening to my mother on the phone and trying to figure out who she's talking to and what the topic is.
It occurred to me that some of the recent calls fall broadly into a few categories.
Romance calls. "You're the one I fancy," said the roundish chap at the bus stop in Glasgow. It kind of suggests there are others in the equation, doesn't it? He hopped onto the bus and juddered off into the night, leaving The Panther and I wondering which lucky girl's door he was heading for.
Domestic administration. "Roddy, Rory's left his chanter on the kitchen table, could you take it up to school please?" Too many tedious variations on this one to mention but I do hope Rory and his chanter were reunited that day. A variation being the almost entirely unnecessary “I’m on the train” calls.
Dinner party bravado. "Yes, Mr Editor, the splash is the story we talked about in conference and, no, nothing's changed... No need for you to call. Sorry, I can't hear you there's lots of noise in the background..." Here boss men prove to their social companions just how important they are and how big and swinging their appendages are by calling in on business in a conspicuous manner.
I'm not really here calls. "Yes, yes, yes. Ham and tomato I think, but, um, make sure there's a vegetarian option." Here what matters is the situation not the content. These are made by dads at the school gate. It says "I'm really just helping out with this childcare chore and I'm actually conducting vital business. Oh and I really don't want to talk to you scary bunch of mums
I really really really love you calls. Not to be confused with Romance Calls. These occur somewhere between six and 10 units of alcohol into a night out without the other half and are a cack-handed way of showing appreciation. They should be short and never, ever repeated on the same night.
Look what I'm doing calls. "Size 4 nappies. SMA milk. The light bulbs for the bathroom with the two pins and green milk." A devoted spouse calling his or her other half to ask questions the answers to which they could probably work out from a supermarket aisle to demonstrate their diligence and devotion.
Bad PR calls. "It doesn't matter what you say, I'm running the story and I'm quite prepared to look like an idiot tomorrow morning. Thank you for your concern and we'll publish your response but we're still running it. Good day." Here's where a communications person is trying to kill a story they don't like by telling the journalist or editor that it'll make them look daft. This tactic will never work as we all know everyone likes to see journalists looking daft. And the more times you say it the more we know the story must run.
Oh, is that my phone? Must dash.

5 comments:

  1. ha ha. one of the things i miss about train travel and buses to some extent is the way in which you can eaves drop on peoples lives and imagination all sorts of things about them and the people they are talking to.

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  2. Rory shares your hobby. His favourite EVER was overhearing someone saying '....so I said to him, I don't care how pretty she is, I'm not having a threesome'. Not sure what catagory that comes under though ;)

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  3. I love listening to calls. I used to have a long commute to London on the train and would happily listen to everyone else on the phone trying to fill in the gaps. I don't get that chance any more. In fact I don't get a chance to make phone calls myself these days without the chidlren trying to talk to me.

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  4. I just did not know the milk or baby powder we needed that's all. You seem to think men are as devious as some ladies. We are not. I simply didn't want that look of utter contempt, that sneering leer of judgement I would get if I fetched up with soya milk and incontinence pads, or some adult nappies for specialist games.
    There, enough said. I was in that shop three hours woman.

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  5. Heather, public transport is best for eavesdropping. x

    Lady BB, maybe there should be a "wish I hadn't heard that" category.

    Emily O, I've noticed that Boy Two has started sneaking into the room when I'm on the phone to listen in. x

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