Friday, 29 August 2008

Addressing a letter - or a person, or automated machine

I have just been writing a letter to an old friend of my mother's. Well, this lady is the mother of a girl I went to school with (and haven't seen for about 30 years) but the lady goes to my mother's church and betwen them they share family stories and pass them on.
My mother came to visit me last week and brought with her a letter to me from this lady and a selection of old journals and magazines from a writing group she attends.So my letter is a one of thanks to her.
But how do I address her? My mother calls her by her first name (of course) but to me she always has been "Mrs... " "or Hazel's mam," or even at one stage in our lives, "Guider" when she was leader of the Girl Guide Group I was a member of. Of course, I have addresed her as "Mrs..." and then went on to explain this to her. Should I need to explain to her why I have not called her by her first name ? Maybe not, and maybe when she receives the letter she will find it strange that I have tried to explain.

We seem to be addressed these days, by our first names, by a range of people that often I find quite inappropriate - or is this just me being an old gimmer.....?
(Gimmer def: similar to "git" which I don't like the sound of - a person who is stupid or unpleasant)
Hardly a day goes by when I am do not speak to someone on the telephone who introduces themselves by the forename and asks if they may call me by mine. Sometimes this seems ok - if I am speaking to someone who I am likely to be speaking to again in the near future or on a regular basis, then yes, call me Brenda. But when I have inadvertently got myself into a conversation with someone attempting to sell me a mobile phone package, I don't particularly need to know, or care, what name their parents chose to give them at birth.
When I am telephoning the gas or electric company to give them my meter reading or discuss a direct debit payment, I don't really need to have them ask if they may call me by my first name - especially when we have just spent five minutes confirming who I am by my full name, address, phone number, bank details, password, husband's name, mother's maiden name and what I intend to have for dinner. (ok , I made the last one up) Don't call me anything at all - just get on with the reason for our conversation !
At the doctor's reception desk I am greeted loudly by my first name as though we are long lost friends. The whole of the waiting room can now wait in anticipation of Mrs and my surname being rolled across the overhead screen in bright red letters when I
am called to the doctor and can now add a forename to the initial. If you are looking for promotion of yourself for whatever the reason, this is the place to be. I have to say that my doctor himself does not feel the need to address me so personally, though he has seen more parts of my anatomy and perhaps has more reason to,than many.

Well, I know it's all part of customer service and customer satisfaction to make the "customer" (and yes, even at the doctors we are customers really) feel wanted and secure. It's also a very good sales tactic, that many of us are taken in by. I n actual fact, this addressing issue is all a matter of respect.

But I think I will continue to expect to be addressed in what I feel is an appropriate manner. If I ask to speak to "Mr so and so" I expect that he wil refer to me as "Mrs..."
If I introduce myself with my forename, then no doubt that person will introduce themselves back with theirs. On some occasions no names are needed at all.
This old gimmer will continue to try to keep her standards, even if they seem to go against the norm or the majority.

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