Earlier today, my phone rang. It was not an unusual event; many people call me. And while yes, most of those people are offering to lower my mortgage payments (which is particularly suspect given that I’m not currently a homeowner), some are simply friends keen to catch up. Such was the case earlier today when, as I said, my phone rang.
Regrettably, I was not available to take the call because I was in another state. That state was sleep, which I consider a normal condition at four in the morning. The fact is, I am usually asleep at four in the morning, as are (I’d venture to guess) the vast majority of civilized individuals.
To tell the story with greater accuracy, I was sleeping until the phone rang, subjecting me to the most literal possible example of a rude awakening.
In my groggy bitterness, I chose to ignore the call. And yet even in that semi-slumber, the affront was not lost on me. Indeed, while the jarring ring may have been what first robbed me of my rest, it was my outrage that kept me awake, stewing as I puzzled over what could possibly possess someone to do such a thing.
Readers, there is scarcely a week that goes by that I don’t mourn within the deepest caverns of my curmudgeonly soul the loss of the many, many basic social norms that everyone used to know and practice. It was effortless once; we learned the commonplace niceties at young ages, and they became as habitual as waking up and going to sleep. What’s more, we took pride in the mastery of those graceful practices as they showed social savvy and a certain elegance that transcended status.
Nine a.m.—that was ever, from time immemorial, the very earliest hour at which it was appropriate to phone anyone. Calling even one minute prior risked the harshest possible disapproval on the part of the callee. Likewise, no one would dream of phoning past nine in the evening, as it was considered disrespectful to presume that someone would be available to talk any later than that. These times were precise dividers between what was known as “a decent hour” and what was known as “an ungodly hour” (as in “Who could be calling at this ungodly hour?”).
Hence, transgressors were often greeted with the justifiable question, “Do you have any idea what time it is?”
But that was when we cared about such things as avoiding disapproval and presumptuousness. Today, it seems, many feel it’s enough to merely narrate their own inconsiderate acts:
“Hi, I’m calling really early, but I just had a quick question.” “Hey, I know it’s one a.m., but you won’t believe who I just ran into.”
“What time is it there? I should have checked. Anyway . . . ”
“I won’t have time later, so I just thought I’d call before dawn to confirm our plans for this afternoon.”
While those are all fascinating insights, the justifications do nothing to excuse the invasiveness of an improperly timed phone call. It’s not all that different from saying, “I know this is a rude question, but how often do you and your husband have sex?” or “I know I probably shouldn’t steal your car, but mine is in the shop,” or “I know I don’t technically live here, but I’m going to move in with you for a bit.”
I have yet to return this morning's phone call. Perhaps I never will. If I do, it will be between the civilized hours of nine a.m. and nine p.m., because I refuse to sink to the level of these unruly times. But maybe this edition of The Weekly Curmudgeon will serve as a timely reminder to those who might otherwise feel entitled to call whenever they damn well please.
I only hope they get the message.