Phony Phone Calls

By Jeanne Marie Laskas
Sunday, February 24, 2008

Finally, a cellphone service available to everyone, everywhere -- free! No overage charges, no hidden fees, no contracts and no dropped calls, ever. Probably thousands of people have already been using it, but I just discovered it, so I'm going to claim it and also name it:Fake Foning.

The technology has been working well for me at the office, but there are infinite applications. The grocery store. A singles bar.

Virtually any public space.

Say, for instance, you work at a humongous university in an English department with zillions of fascinating but often very talky faculty members -- not to mention talky students -- buzzing about. So, say you're in your office, with the door firmly shut because that is the only way you can get any work done. Now, say you need to use the rest-room. The trip down the hall will, you know, take approximately one hour. Because a person can't walk into the fray of talky people without getting pulled aside for a question, a bit of gossip, a new read on a certain line of Paradise Lost. It gets to the point where it's not even worth taking the trip to the restroom, but then, of course, you could run into health problems.

So, a cellphone. Any cellphone. Even a pretend one. Just pick it up. Don't dial. Just hold that phone to your face and start talking. Walk confidently down the hall engaged in fake conversation, making sure to tailor both the tenor and content to the person standing before you whom you are trying to evade.

For standard colleague avoidance, I suggest fake chatting about fake business:

"Yes, and that's why I'm glad you called, because we really need to hammer out the details. What's that? Yes, I read Page 12, but if you look at the bottom of 4, I think you can see that the problem begins right there. Exactly! Oh, we sure do have our work cut out for us."

Be animated. Be engrossed in your fake fone conversation.

Make eye contact with the people passing, nod to them, gesture keen interest in talking to them at a later time, point to your phone, shrug and move on.

(Rude? Conniving? Look, if we have to live in a world where what passes for etiquette allows people to walk around talking on their cellphones all the time, we might as well take advantage of it.)

I suggest a slightly different content strategy if you are trying to avoid bosses who make mean eyes at you for being so rude as to be talking on your cellphone while they have something important to tell you. On these occasions, you have to go personal, and you have to go emergency:

"Our attorney? What? Oh, honey, this is a disaster! He actually believes they have a case? No! I don't have the records! Did you tell him they got destroyed in the fire?"

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