Recently I was driving and talking on the phone (hands-free) with my dearest friend, T. Somewhere shortly into our conversation I could hear her connection getting bad as she was driving in the rain and clearly getting out of range of a cell tower. Then, predictably, the called was dropped.

(Dropped calls are annoying but a fact of life. My friend K is very patient with me when I am on my cellphone because I live in a rural area with poor cell coverage and she is Chicago where there is probably too much. When we are disconnected I call her back when I get into range.)

Giving T time to move back into range, I think I phoned her back, or maybe she phoned me…hmmm.

We laughed about the call drop and then T pronounced the following edict: Whoever initiates the call, calls back. No matter what. And that’s her new rule.

When two people converse it is a mutual agreement to converse. So it stands to reason that when this protocol is employed everyone needs to agree as well. So, of course, I agree, it makes sense not to exchange calls and messages back and forth. Then I had thoughts like: how about when I phone her back and she is still out of range? Is it then her turn to phone me back? Or is the responsibility all with me? In my family usually whoever drops the call calls back when they have service. So now I’ll have to remember whose protocol is whose.

I appreciate that T has brought this up and I am curious about this so I have been cruising the internet reading about cellphone etiquette. There are many “rules” out there concerning ringtones, where it is cool and uncool to have conversations, volume of conversations and more. Here are some funny and thoughtful ideas as well as some of my input (5 and 6) on dropped call etiquette:

1. Some dropped calls are on purpose! Have you ever just hung up because you didn’t want to speak to someone? People do! Check out some of the responses at

2. Have you done this: “What? Can’t hear you? You’re breaking up….” and then hang up? People do that, too, and even talk about it online….So how can you be sure someone hasn’t just hung up on you? There is even “fake an excuse” software out there.

3. There are many online references to the “Scoville Protocol” which is whoever dropped the call, phones back. I tend to like this one. You usually know if you dropped the call, don’t you? I found references to smartphones that know they’ve dropped a call and can redial the last number. Get the App called AutoRedial 1.0 or RedialOn for Blackberry.

4. There are also many references to what I now call the “T Protocol”: whoever initiated the call, calls back. People online have even claimed it as their original idea!

5. True confession: Sometimes I don’t remember who called whom. (Forgive me if I don’t call back, friends.)

6. If you are talking to my 96-year-old cousin or my father, you will always call them back, please, no matter who initiated the call.

7. I found this excellent and anonymous comment online: “There is perhaps one exception; if both are fairly certain that one of them is known to have a less expensive way of returning the call, then a few extra moments should be left reserved to give them an opportunity to do so.”

8. And, this from, “So what should you do if a spotty patch of cell coverage lops off the call before the closing bookend? (“Well, I really should get going. I’m trying to …”) Even if there’s not much left to say, the redial button is obligatory. Otherwise, the likely effect is either confusion (think colleagues or grandparents) or insult (think boss or boyfriend). “Communication is not just about accomplishing tasks,” says Scripps College of Communication dean Gregory Shepherd. “It’s about managing relationships.” So call back to say good-bye, even if you had them at hello … hello?”

Dave Delaney from states: “He who called returns the call.” also has a great deal to say about cellphone etiquette.

And, of course, a dropped call joke: “I was talking to you when the call dropped. I do not know where to pick up…. We just had a cellular moment.”