I’m not a stickler for manners.

I’m not going to object, or notice, if someone uses their salad fork for the wrong course of a meal – even soup. It’s their lap. Why should I care?

But, for some reason I can’t fathom, I’m somewhat meticulous about telephone etiquette. Not my own, mind you, but rather people who call me.

I find of significant annoyance the greeting of “Who is this?” It’s usually uttered in a tone that implies that I shouldn’t be where I am.

I can understand a baffled “Who is this?” salutation if you call your house while on vacation and a burglar answers, or if you call your cellphone after it’s been stolen. Then, the query could actually lead to identifying a perp and solving a crime. But if you’re calling me, at my number, you shouldn’t be surprised if I occasionally answer.

I usually respond to “Who is this?” with: “The person you’re talking to.” It is often met with beautiful silence.

My fussbudget phone fetish has led to a series of frustrating “teaching moments” with my children.

I remember a particular encounter with my youngest son when he was about 7 years old.

He was looking for his “Pirates of the Caribbean” swimming trunks. Or, as he called them then – his “Carrots of the Pyribbean” swimming trunks. He was in a tizzy to locate them.

Of course, I had no idea where his pants were, or mine for that matter. So I suggested we call his mother, who was at work.

As we headed to the phone, I thought this a perfect occasion to impart an important life lesson to my young son, and teach him the proper decorum for making a phone call.

“Now, son, what are you going to say when someone answers the phone?”

“Where are my Carrots of the Pyribbean shorts?,” he said quickly.

“No, no, someone else may answer the phone other than your mother. Other people work at her office,” I said. “Here’s what you’re supposed to say: ‘May I please speak to, your mother’s name?’”

We went over this several times. After four or five minutes of practice, and a pop quiz, I felt confident he had mastered the content and inflection for a proper phone greeting.

I supervised as he dialed, then put the phone to his ear. I heard a woman pick up the phone and deliver a standard office greeting. This totally threw him off his game.

He hesitated, gasped, looked at me with panic, then forgot everything I had taught him, and reverted back to primal instinct.

“Who is you?”

She obviously realized it was a child on the phone and explained who she was. This allowed him to regain his wits, and he asked, “May I speak to ... your mama’s name?”

I’m not really sure what was said after that, but he was soon connected to his mother and the whereabouts of his beloved “Pirate” swimming trunks were identified.

Fast forward to last week. Same son, who is going to be a high school sophomore soon, is looking for me (or, more succinctly, for money) and calls my office. (I was on another call on my cellphone.)

When someone other than me answered the phone, he was – again – flummoxed.

“Who is this???”

In retrospect, potty training was rather easy.

Email Len Robbins at lrobbins@theclinchcountynews.com.

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