Darrell Berkheimer: A curmudgeon cites a few annoying issues | TheUnion.com
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Darrell Berkheimer: A curmudgeon cites a few annoying issues

Darrell Berkheimer
Columnist

I think I speak for most older men, and perhaps a lot of older women as well, when I complain about how fast-talking so many younger people are on the phone and on television.

Every week, when placing or receiving phone calls, the person on the other end starts jabbering away faster than I can understand. Frequently it’s a much younger woman, but not always.

And that’s when I interrupt, in a somewhat loud voice. I say, “Hold on, hold on; you talk faster than my old ears can hear. And if you want me to understand you, please slow down and pronounce your words clearly. Then maybe I will know what you are saying.”

I know I am not the only one complaining about this issue. Because occasionally other folks will make a similar remark, often another older person.

So I can’t help but think that this complaint is a typical one here in western Nevada County, where we have a high percentage of retirees.

Frequently the call will involve a customer service or sales issue. Also quite regularly, the person on the other end is speaking with a foreign accent, making it even more difficult to understand.

Sometimes, I just have to hang up. But if it’s an issue I need to resolve, then I must place my call again, hoping to get a different person, one who I can more easily understand. But again, I usually have to tell the person to slow down and pronounce words clearly for me to understand.

Sales and customer services require easy-to-understand communications. And a company that fails to realize that can raise skepticism and suspicions in potential patrons. The situation raises the question: If a company can’t provide communications to be easily understood, what else does the company do poorly?

I believe businesses that hire these folks need to place more emphasis on the training, and on who they select. Failure to do so results in more time wasted on both longer and repetitive calls. And wasted time means wasted money for those businesses. That’s in addition to irritating a potential customer who might decide to deal with a competitor instead.

It’s become even more of a problem as we deal with the COVID-19 coronavirus, which has forced us to conduct much more business than usual by telephone.

But the issue — for many of us older folks — is not limited to phone calls. It also involves broadcasters and commentators on TV, and the movies we watch at home.

Yes, we use subtitles or closed captions on our TV, which usually are available. But that doesn’t always solve the problem, either. Often the typist or technology can’t keep up with the speaker, causing some confusion when the written words don’t match what we’re hearing. And much too frequently written sentences are left incomplete when a switch is made to a different topic or speaker.

I also have been disgusted with a few news commentators, and especially some of their guests. I place the blame on the program producers for not realizing and emphasizing the need for slower and better communications. They should be more accommodating to aging audiences — particularly since our increasing longevity continues to push both average and median ages upward.

Hearing aids help with tone and volume, but not with speed!

Some broadcasters, especially weather reporters and sports announcers, act like they’re in a race to see how many words they can run together in a record time.

I also am disgusted with the idioms and poor grammar used by broadcasters, who provide bad examples as they tend to promote common usage of incorrect speech.

Perhaps the worse example is the frequent use of the phrase “whether or not.” It is redundant — no need to add “or not.”

Another incorrect usage is “city council … they,” and “Corporation XYZ … they.” City council and businesses are collective nouns, with a singular tense requiring singular pronouns. Obviously, too many broadcasters and journalists failed to pay attention to their English teachers, because that is one of the basic rules of grammar.

And now we have the prevalent use of the word “perfect” by many in our younger generations. That wrongful use also has caught on with some Boomer generation women.

No, my ham and eggs order is not “perfect.” You can say OK; will do; thank you; just plain yes, or simply nod your head. But don’t tell me it’s “perfect.”

And when I’m on the phone, what I just said does not need or deserve a “perfect” reply. I don’t want to hear that.

I also must cite a California slang terminology. I first noticed it when a reporter from California was hired at the Utah newspaper where I was the city editor. He referred to a town and area in the southern end of the county as South County.

I said, “What do you mean? We don’t have a South County here in Utah.”

He was the only one from whom I heard such usage before I came to California. And here I’ve heard the terms “north county” and “east county” when referring to the northern part of the county, or the eastern end. And when written, the terms sometimes have appeared capitalized, too — as if they are a proper name.

It’s just a California-ism that I’ve never experienced in any of the other states where I’ve lived and worked, which include Pennsylvania, Georgia, Texas, New Mexico, Montana and Oregon.

OK, so I’m a cranky old curmudgeon. But I’m not alone in that category — especially not in Nevada County, where nearly a third of us are over 60.

As we live longer, there are more and more of us out there. And should you act to eliminate some of our complaints, a number of us will simply add a few others to our list. That’s what we curmudgeons do.

Darrell Berkheimer, who lives in Grass Valley, is a frequent contributor to The Union. He has seven books available through Amazon. His sixth, Essays from The Golden Throne, includes 60 columns published by The Union, plus a dozen western travel and photo essays. Contact him at mtmrnut@yahoo.com.


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