REALITY CHECK: Voicemail does not require instructions

Reality Check | Mike Taylor

It is my firm belief that anybody too stupid to leave a voicemail without first hearing detailed instructions explaining the process should not be making phone calls in the first place.

Like everyone else in the world, I am no fan of voicemail. Though I sound (at least to myself) reasonably intelligent and articulate most of the time, when faced with the prospect of leaving a message on what we referred to in the Dark Ages as an “answering machine,” I turn into Bill Cosby’s “Mush Mouth” character. You know the one I mean: “I-buh don’t-buh know-buh wha-buh to say-buh.”

Though I prattle like an idiot on voicemail, I generally manage to stutter out a message containing all the pertinent information.

Most times when I’m leaving a message, it’s for one of my kids. Neither of them seem quite sure what to do when their cell phones ring. The idea of actually answering the thing and saying something clever, like, “Hello?” does not occur to them.

They prefer to text. Or email. Or pound out messages on a hollow log. Anything but speak on the phone.

On more than one occasion, I’ve called my daughter, only to have her text me WHILE I’M STILL LEAVING A VOICEMAIL with a “Hi Daddy! What’s up? :) ” message.

My response usually is, “I’ve had a massive heart attack and have only seconds to live. Please call me so I can tell you where the money is buried.”

To which she replies, via text, “OMG! That is SO sad. :( Let me post it on Facebook.”

“Sinking fast,” I text back. “See a bright light and your dead Uncle Ed telling me I should follow him into it. Seriously, there’s a lot of money buried out there in the yard; you should call now.”

Eventually, she weakens and phones me to find out what I really want.

My son is smarter; he just pretends he’s dropped his phone in the toilet again and calls back a few days to a week later, generally from a noisy bar in New York or Chicago (he travels a lot for work).

I also encounter voicemail during my work day. My kids, it turns out, aren’t alone in their disinclination to answer the phone. These days, if you want a real person answering your call on the first or second ring, you better be dialing 9-1-1. Everybody else lets it go to voicemail.

The problem for me, however, isn’t leaving the message. I’m used to that, and like I said, I can and do manage it a dozen times a day.

What I hate is all the time I have to spend WAITING to leave a message.

Here’s all the information we NEED: “Hey there! I’m not available to take your call right now, sorry. Wait for the beep. BEEP.”

Here is what we GET: “Hey there! I’m not available to take your call right now, sorry. Wait for the beep.” Then the robot voice comes on: “The (insert carrier here) customer you are trying to reach is unavailable at this time. If you would like to leave a message, please wait for the beep, then clear your throat twice, organize your thoughts into a linear narrative and speak clearly into your handset’s mouthpiece. The mouthpiece is the little hole at the end of your phone opposite the one you’re holding to your ear. After that, you may simply hang up or press 2 to erase your message, press 3 to hear your message played back to you, press 4 to hear your message played back with full orchestration added featuring the London Philharmonic, or you may press 1 for more options.”

More options? What “more options” does anyone really need at this point? Translate the message into Sanskrit? Post it to Facebook and Twitter? Send a duplicate message to your congressman?

Has anyone EVER, in the history of the telephone, pushed 1 for more options? If 1 were ever pushed, would anything really happen?

If I had my way, pushing 1 would send a strong electric shock back through the line to the person who wouldn’t answer his or her phone in the first place.

And yes, my bright, beautiful, phone-impaired children; I am talking about you.

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