From Quill Pens and Beeswax To E-mail and Cell Phones

CAN I FAX

A Thank-You Note?

By Audrey Glassman

Berkeley Books

224 pp., $12

Audrey Glassman is on to us. We're rude, she says, inconsiderate, and technologically inept.

But it's not our fault. Our parents had the tools to teach us to keep elbows off the table, but they weren't prepared for the technological revolution. And now everyone's run amok. We're abusing our cell phones, bungling with beepers, and clogging voice mail systems with marathon messages.

Or at least that's what Glassman mourns in "Can I Fax a Thank-You Note?"

The book is a guide for the proper and polite use of today's telecommunication toys. It's not about just choosing the right fork anymore.

There are cellular phones, faxes, email, caller ID, voice mail, beepers, the Internet. And Glassman thinks many of us use them with the forethought of the guy next door who mows his lawn at 3 a.m.

She has set out to save us from ourselves. "Can I Fax a Thank-You Note?" covers the whole range, from how to leave a voice mail message to well-informed Web surfing.

There's a lot of silly and obvious advice, but she also includes some sage reminders. For example, saying, "I'll let you go now" when you want to end a telephone conversation is rude, rude, rude!

The book's lighthearted, "let's laugh at ourselves" tone saves it from its "shame-on-you" potential.

Unfortunately, the people who could really benefit from the reminders - big-shots blocking the grocery aisle while they chat on their cell phones - probably won't be the ones to tuck this book under their arm.

* Kristina Lanier is an intern at the Monitor.

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