Mind Your Millennium Manners

By Christopher Francescani – The New York Post – 09/10/2004 – 12:00am


Forget about the Y2K scare – forget about planes falling from the sky and the stock market going haywire.

There’s a far more serious issue to worry about as we hurtle towards the 21st century… Millennium manners.

New technology is causing a drastic re-evaluation of standards among the manners set like Charlotte Ford, great-grand daughter of Henry Ford, Sue Fox, a Silicon Valley author of the forthcoming “Etiquette for Dummies,” and Joie Gregory, who runs a New York-based etiquette company called the Right Fork.

“Technology is moving at a very rapid pace, and if you’re in business today, you must be aware of the etiquette associated with the changing technology,” said Gregory.

Here The Post gives you a 21st century crash course:

Tech device: Cell phone

Faux pas factor: Recently, Victoria’s Secret model Laetitia Casta’s million-dollar face was doused with tear gas by an irate Parisian cab driver who was sick of listening to the bodaceous beauty’s cell phone incessantly ringing.

And Broadway’s “Death of a Salesman” is interrupted three times a week by chirping Nokias. Once a phone rang during the final scene of the play, when leading lady Elizabeth Franz visits the grave of Willy Loman (played by Brian Dennehy). A woman answered and said: “The play’s almost over. Can you accommodate two more for dinner?” “She would have kept talking, but the man next to her started yelling,” Franz told The Post.

Mind these manners: “It’s horrible to be in a position where you have to listen to someone’s private conversation,” said Ford.

To avoid being rude, the bottom line in restaurants, and other public places is “unless you’re a doctor with an emergency, keep your cell phone turned off,” says Fox. (In fact, many New York restaurants have banned them.)

If you do have a job where immediate access is essential, “Pick up the phone and say, ‘Hold on a minute,’ and you walk outside and take the call away from the dining room,” advises Blue Water Grill owner Steve Hanson.

Fox and Hanson also suggests wearing a beeper with a vibrate function, that won’t disturb others, or leaving the number where you’ll be with your office.

Tech device: video conference calls

Faux pas factor: A West Coast computer company was recently video conferencing with an executive who was working from home. The exec sat at a desk in front of the camera in a shirt and tie, talking to his colleagues at the office. They started brainstorming, and as the executive at home got up to pace, he realized he’d forgotten to put his pants on.

Mind these manners: “We’re on the cusp of video conference calls becoming an everyday occurrence in the business world,” says Gregory. To avoid getting caught in your pajamas, treat conference calls like all other business meeting.

“Even if you’re in a casual situation, you need to look your business best,” says Gregory. “Just because you’re sitting at home doesn’t mean you’re on your own time.”

Gregory also reminds clients to sit still. “People are used to being on the telephone, feeding the dog or something while they’re talking. You can’t do that with video conferencing.”

And be aware of the transmission delay (“Make sure someone is completely finished a thought before speaking. If you interrupt, it can be very embarrassing,” she says).

Tech device: Caller ID

Faux pas factor: You come home and your caller identification function shows you got a call from so-and-so, but there’s no message. Immediately, you call back and say, “You hung up on my machine. What do you want?!” to a poor old lady who dialed the wrong number.

First published in 2000

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