Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Telephone Voice

"Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth."
-Oscar Wilde

Spouse and I once visited my cousin while we were travelling in Ireland. We reached her home late because I was rather unfamiliar with the route. As we were approaching I took a minute to call my mother and ask her to find a Bed and Breakfast for us in my cousin's locality.
There was no room in my cousin's house for two late stragglers to spend the night, and we had arrived much later than planned- we had initially thought we might go back home to my mother afterward.
I had scant few minutes to spare on my cell phone and anyhow did not have access to names and numbers of such places so my mother agreed to sort the matter while we met with my cousin.
So, following a pleasant visit complete with tea, tales of my woeful navigation skills and shared childhood memories- my cousin and I are the same age- we said that we ought to be leaving.
My cousin asked where we might stay; I then got a call from my mother, who told me that she had spoken to a nice woman and that it was all arranged: we were to go to a certain house down the road.
My cousin would no doubt be able to guide us. My mother had noted down all the information we needed, including telephone number and street address. I suggested that she keep it close to hand and that we would call her.
My cousin agreed to accompany us to the Bed and Breakfast, where we would deposit our bags, and then proceed to a pub for more catching up.
As we drove, I told my cousin that she ought to navigate to the Bed and Breakfast as she knew the area well.
I dialled my mother's number and handed the phone to my cousin in the back seat.
"You talk to her," said I. "She'll give you directions."
I was a little taken aback, then, when my cousin accepted the phone and began speaking in a polite and graciously dainty voice, one which I had never heard her use in all my life.
She was quite the business woman, it seemed. She was clearly attempting to impress the person on the other end with her refined social skills.
"Helloooo, this is So and so-; and I was wondering if you could please tell us how to reach your home? We are at this moment in front of the church and near the school and around the corner from the pub."
Oh, what a conspicuously distinguished telephone manner she displayed.
I knew right then what had happened but it was too late. There was a very long silence.
The next thing I knew, my cousin was crying my mother's name into the telephone. She was livid. She flung the thing back at me.
"I thought it was the Bed and Breakfast lady I was talking to, not my aunt!"
My cousin presumed that I had dialled the lady's number, when in fact I had called the only other person who knew the details- which just happened to be my mother. I was hardly going to call a complete stranger at that time of night and ask for directions to the house. It was a perfectly ordinary thing, therefore, for me to call my mother instead, but my cousin absolutely misunderstood and had inadvertently put on a lovely show for her aunt, who was quite doubled up with laughter on the other end.
I suppose, upon thinking it over, that we do all have both a 'telephone voice'- one we use exclusively for people we are not very familiar with and who we rightfully wish to impress- and our 'everyday voice.' But how funny when the two worlds collide and we mistake one for the other.
I still have enormous trouble looking my dear delightful cousin in the eye.


mouse (aka kimy) said...

I have noticed we all have a particular & unique 'telephone voice' - what strikes me about the story (and it's wonderful story) is the reaction of your cousin (livid) when she discovered she was talking to your ma...too bad she could not find the humor in the situation.

although you didn't say, I am assuming you eventually made your way to the b&b!

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

She did see the funny side afterward- mostly she was embarrassed. I suppose I should have told her who she was talking to but I didn't think!
Yes, we made it! Thanks for asking ;)

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