Dear Mr. Manners: Last week my boyfriend and I hit a rough spot in our relationship and I really wanted to talk with my closest friend, whom I’ll call “Louise.” I phoned but she didn’t pick up. And then she didn’t call back, even though I said in a voicemail that it was “important.” Instead, the next morning (the next morning!) Louise texted me: “Everything OK? Let’s talk.” My question is this: Isn’t it bad manners to return a phone call with a text? — Waitin’ on a Friend
Jeez, this is your best friend? I’m sorry, and I agree with you that she should have called back. Protocol suggests you return any message via the same medium in which it was sent. A phone call requires a return phone call. A text deserves a text.
That doesn’t mean that if your friend is indisposed, she can’t email or text a quick message to explain her delay. (By the way, I really like the “auto-respond” feature on the iPhone, which allows me to fake-answer an incoming call with a pre-set message like, “Can’t talk now—will call you right back,” or one that you customize yourself.) But a phone call still needs to be returned, and in a prompt manner, which I would say is within 24 hours for non-911 situations.
What many people do nowadays is schedule a “phone date,” rather than expecting friends to be available on a dime, without notice. The days of telephone spontaneity are fading fast; I find myself texting friends ahead of time to see when they’re available to talk. As the old AT&T slogan goes, sometimes we actually need “to reach out and touch someone.” By reaching out in a time of need via telephone, you definitely deserved a proper reply, whether scheduled or not.