10 January 2011

Reluctant Tips for Leaving Voicemail

1. Don't.

2. Seriously, do you not have email?

3. Are you leaving a voicemail because whatever you have to say is too complicated to explain via email? If so, abort this ill-thought-out attempt at communication and start over.

4. Or is what you have to say too politically-sensitive to risk leaving an email trail? If so, either you work at the CIA or you're over-dramatizing.

5. If you feel you absolutely must leave me a voice message, please know the following:

a. I have three offices, plus a home office, plus I work remotely from various locations. I don't take work calls on my mobile, so phone is the absolute worst way to contact me; you'd probably have better luck writing your message on a paper airplane and sailing it out your window, trusting to Fate to get it to me.
b. You must leave your phone number or (ideally) email address. It's true that some voicemail systems record the number you're calling from, but since all voicemail systems appear to date from about 1993, you don't want to rely on them.
c. Deleting a voicemail is easy, much easier than listening to a convoluted 108-second message, it doesn't leave a trail the way that deleting an email does, and it can be blamed conveniently on a faulty voicemail system (see above). The point here is, your message must make some sort of sense if you want me to do anything about it. Maybe you weren't expecting to have to leave a message and didn't have remarks prepared - if so, please make use of the option at the end to listen back and re-record.
d. If you need something right now (and have eschewed the far more sensible option of emailing), please listen to the recorded message, which often contains instructions about what to do and who to call with urgent matters. It's always tempting to bypass the greeting, but if you expect me to listen to your message, at least listen to mine first to see if it will solve your problem.
I won't name the person who left me the nonsensical voicemail that prompted this discussion, but I will never get back the mental energy I spent trying to understand what this person needed (urgently!) from me. I'm aware that Google Voice and other similar services provide voicemail transcription at low or no cost, but I haven't found a system that works with my existing work phone number (and accompanying antiquated voicemail system).

I highly recommend this collection of Google Voice transcriptions edited as poetry, with interpretive remarks. Excerpt:
FAITH (Caller: My wife)

I'm sure you're trying to call me
on the other line.

Editor's note: This is a poignant and yearning work. I really hope I was calling her on the other line when she composed this. I hate to disappoint her. That's the last thing in the world I want to do. Life is hard sometimes, and lonely, and I want to be her respite, her refuge, her sanctuary.

Have I disappointed her? Or have I been a good and loving life partner? Am I attentive enough? I need an answer. Google Voice will know. Or, even better, it will help me find the answer for myself.


Far from the Madding Crowd said...

This doesn't apply to your case, but when I'm going to ask someone on a date I can't bring myself to use email or text message. Instead, I call, and if unanswered, I leave a message to call back.

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