Thursday, December 18, 2008
At least once a week, we get a wayward caller dialing our apartment. For all I know it may be the same wayward caller (here he is again, in fact, twice now in the last three minutes.... Ok, fatto. He'll call back no doubt.)
I realize the etiquette for handling mis-dialed calls varies greatly by country, but I cannot quite get my head around how it works here in Rome. For example, in the US, the person who incorrectly rings is usually the apologetic one. In the US, once you've mis-dialled and disturbed someone else it's not customary to ask any more questions. Just apologize, hang up and go about your business. Often the one on the receiving end makes it painless. They hang up before you have a chance to apologize. Perfect in my book.
In the UK, I found, whenever I mis-dialled it was the person on the other end who was apologetic. Terribly apologetic. And they would rarely hang up first. Perhaps hearing my American accent they would linger on the phone thinking I was in need of help, some direction maybe. But what? It was always me who would mutter an apology and hang up on them.
Here in Rome, it's completely different yet again. Whenever I pick up the phone and respond "pronto" (I love how the national phone greeting here is "I'm ready"), I get a terse "Chi e'?" snapping back at me. They are speaking formally but the tone is anything but. Here's how it plays out from there:
Me: "Chi e' Lei?" Who are You? (formal)
Me: No, mi dispiace, pero Lei ha sbagliato. No, I'm sorry (I can probably drop the "I'm sorry" part but after four years of misdialed phone calls in London it's now permanently wired into my synapses). You have erred.
Caller: CHI E' LEI?
Me: Lei ha...
Caller: CHECOSA E' QUESTO NUMERO? WHAT IS YOUR PHONE NUMBER, YOU SILLY AMERICAN?!?
Me: (cue: rolling my eyes)
Caller: (rattles off a sequence of numbers -- either the last four numbers or the last seven numbers)
Me: No, Lei ha sbagliato. No, you (formal) have erred.
Caller: oh. (click)
Two minutes later he/she rings back.
Posted by Bernhard Warner at 7:31 PM