Thursday, February 02, 2006


Jerry teaches us telephone etiquette

by Carla Diana

NEW YORK, May 20,1998 -- I didn't watch the OJ [Image]
trial. I've never seen single episode of the
"X-Files." But I couldn't miss this Thursday's big
televised event: the final Seinfeld episode.

Jerry, you see, is a man after my own heart. In his
celebration of the minutiae of everyday life, he doesn't
miss a beat when it comes to commenting on the cultural
importance of objects. His last show went through a
rundown of the crucial considerations of using
telecommuncations devices. Here's what he's taught us.

Rule #1: The performance of the equipment should be
matched to the importance of the call. When Elaine needs
to call a friend who's in the midst of a personal crisis,
she makes her first faux pas by placing the call on her
cellular phone while walking down the street. The call
gets interrupted by interference, and Jerry scolds her
for her egregious error. "The cell phone call is the
lowest form of phone call," he explains, "It's pompous!"
[Oh, like *he's* not. -- Ed.]

Rule #2: Call acceptance hierarchy. Don't end an
important call by taking another one. When Elaine finally
calls her emotionally fragile friend back (from her home
phone), she cuts her off when she hears from Jerry on
call waiting. This is another huge blunder. Her friend
knows that she lost in the "phone face-off," and,
according to Jerry, "that's worse than the cell phone

Rule #3: Timing matters. After her first two strikes,
Elaine attempts to call the distressed friend during a
few free moments before she heads out for the gang's big
trip. Once again, Jerry comes to the rescue and explains
that "you can't make a call like that when you're going
out the door." She agrees, but then had the audacity to
contemplate calling from the plane. This, of couse, leads
to more Seinfeldian scolding (see Rule #1).

By the show's end, the "New York Four" find themselves in
prison, and Elaine still hasn't had the sympathetic
conversation she owes her friend. At this point, she has
the foresight to consult Jerry by asking if a call from
prison would show an acceptable measure of concern. It
would not only be all right, he says, but it might make
up for all the previously insulting uses of communication
devices. After all, you only get one call. "The prison
call is the king of calls," he concludes, leading us

Rule #4: Location, location, location. Where you are when
you place the call is a crucial consideration.

I'll miss Seinfeld, but I've loads of respect for a guy
who knows when it's time to move on. A show that claimed
to be about nothing was in so many ways about everything.
Perhaps its success lay in the way its characters'
obsessions so often mirror our own, even when they
revolve around consumer electronics.

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This column is an exclusive.


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