Off the Wall, March 2
, 2012

Isn’t it interesting how some expressions stay around, while others fall by the wayside and are never spoken again?

I remember my mother always ending our conversations with “Toot-a-Lou.” When saying goodbye. I thought it was kind of an upbeat way to close – far better than some of the ways people do so today.

Ben Sausecovich and I had a brief discussion the other day. I was dialing someone in a company and he had just picked up the receiver to phone someone else and ended up sharing his thoughts with mine. We joked a bit about what happened and then he said he would see if he could connect me to the sales department where I was willing to speak to anybody in reference to ordering a product. “I’ll try and see if we can get through,” he said, and he put me on hold.

That kind of phrase leaves me hanging. I have to feel as though someone definitely will pick up the phone and I can commence with what I set out to do. And in this case it did work out.

I love it when I talk to someone either in person or on the phone and at the end of our conversation, one party says, “later.” “Later?” “Later” what? Maybe I don’t want to see or talk to that person again that day or night, Lord forbid. If I talk to Lorraine Suscaleeno at Shop n Save in the meat department, nothing against her, but she filleted the fish just fine. I don’t need for her to come over to my house to cook it, too. I’m fairly good at that. Can’t you just imagine me telling the Mrs. the lady from the food market’s meat department is coming to our house tonight, for what I couldn’t tell you. Not too many spouses are in favor of such a comment.

Folks, here is my suggestion. Ditch that five-letter word. Oh, it might apply in some cases. A parent picking up her child from school would be fitting. A wife saying goodbye to her husband may use this word, or a boyfriend meeting a girlfriend after school definitely would be applicable here. But to use it in all circumstances, no way, Hosea.

Thinking back, I remember listening to Bill Haley and His Comets singing, “See You Later, Alligator.” Written by Robert Guidry in 1955 and released one year later, it was a catchy little number that had an ending phrase, “After a while, crocodile.” In my opinion, maybe that’s where the “later” expression had its origin. Makes sense to me.

People back in the mid-50’s used to say it. It became so common that it just became the right thing to say upon departure. Could it be that friends felt that since there was nothing else that was so commonplace to exchange that this “in-thing” was what was expected of them? Anyway, so much for that.

To prove I’m as guilty as the next guy, for the longest time, I never said “goodbye” at the conclusions of my conversations on the phone. I just use to hang up after expressing my thoughts. Then one day, someone pointed it out to me that I had established a bad habit and I should start saying good-bye when I talk to people on the phone.

So, guess what? Now I am making an attempt to always say that salutation upon before putting the receiver back on the unit. Sometimes it’s tough, because I forget. Breaking old habits takes God’s help, guts and gumption. I’ve been trying, and I actually like the sound I’m hearing.

The other day I was talking to Wendy Windolat from a town several miles away. She was a great help in making sure I had everything I needed, for which I was most appreciative. But, one thing I noticed that caught me off guard, was that when she was done telling me all she intended to relate, she hung up. A simple “goodbye” or “talk to you soon” would have been just what the doctor ordered. However, with that said, I can understand that I may have done the same thing and irritated others just like Wendy bothered me, and that got me thinking. That is one reason, I am going to try to do the right thing – say “goodbye.”

The other day, a “professional fundraiser” (that is what she called herself) telephoned. When I told her I could not give at this time, she rude hung up – not courteous at all.

Of course, I could always revert back to my mother’s salutation as well. Possibly, I could bring an old expression back to life, I don’t know. Maybe after writing this column, others will start to end their conversations with, “toot-a-lou,” too. Now, that would be really neat. You know, I think my mother would really like that (not to mention, my brother and sister, as well).

- Paul J. Volkmann
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