Monday, August 08, 2005

I'll Give You a Missed Call

On an average day, every single person I come across has a cell phone: relatives (even my dad, usually the last adopter of any technology) friends, colleagues, our driver, the plumber, the carpenter, the tile layer, (water leakage repairs at our house recently, if you're wondering) the newspaper guy, the day labourer at a construction site.... The women string it around their necks (the new mangalsutra) or carry it in their palms (the new handkerchief, as my mom pointed out) and the men either stick it in their pockets or clip it to their belts. Cell phone usage has developed into a highly evolved form here in India. All incoming calls are free. Text messaging is inexpensive and is the preferred mode of communication.

As in every other part of the world, the cell phone is at its useful best when a group of people is getting together in a new place or simply trying to figure out where someone is.

"I'm here. Where are you?"
"I'm 10 minutes away. Which entrance should I come to?"
"I'm lost. Where did you say I should make a right?"

These messages are most likely to be SMSed.

If you just want to let someone know that you've reached a particular location, however, the mostly widely used tool is the "missed call."

Your friend might say to you, "I'll give you a missed call when I get there."

That means, "I'll call you on your cell phone, but do not answer it." If you answer it, it'll cost your friend a call. From a missed call, you can tell who called you at what time, and you know your friend has reached the pre-determined location.

The first time someone said this to me, I was clueless. My brain did not acknowledge the "missed" part. So when my friend called, I promptly picked up the phone and answered it.

"I said I would give you a missed call. Why did you answer?"

"Oh." Still clueless. "A missed call? What's that?"

I then got a lesson in cell-phone etiquette.

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