And now, not answering your call, the incomparable, the inimitable……..

What is there about creating an answering machine message that is so intimidating? The most eloquent among us often shudder at the thought of having to compose a message. It’s almost like this message, which we imagine will be heard by the entire world, will reveal our very essence, the secret to our innermost being. Now that I think about it, maybe it does. Hey, it’s just a greeting, right? But no, we think we have to be ingenious or overly gracious or tell a story so the caller will feel like they have missed talking to the coolest person on earth.

Once a week, I volunteer at a local non-profit medical clinic making calls to remind patients about upcoming appointments. When I get an answering machine I can pretty much count on the message falling into these categories:

1. The “deer in the headlights” message.” This person is stunned. A prompt has put them in the position of talking to a machine for possibly the first time in their lives. They’re clueless. They panic, completely unaware that there is an option that lets you erase and try again. They stutter, mispronounce and yes, even forget who they are. Then they are so relieved they have finished, there’s usually another 1-2 minutes of silence before they remember to hang up the phone.

Hi..this is.....er...uh.....Chark...ummm....I mean....Chuck..

2. The “stand-up comic” message. These are the Jerry Seinfeld/Roseanne Barr wannabes. You’re a captive audience right? I mean, you called didn’t you? Nobody twisted your arm. So you’ve got to listen to their schtick whether you want to or not. Look at it this way, you just saved the gas and cover charge that it would have cost to go to the local comedy club.

I'm not home, but anyway, there's this priest, rabbi and minister who walk into a bar.....

3. The “we are not worthy” message. These folks begin by apologizing for not being there. They humbly appeal to you sense of fairness by asking you to forgive them and promise, nay guarantee, that if you will only identify yourself, their only reason for living will be to return your call.

Oh my God, I missed your call. I'll surely rot in hell for this....

4. The “I’m interminably clever” message. Example: “Hi, the dogs are not allowed to answer the phone when we’re not home, so please leave a message.” Need I say more?

"We're not home, but that doesn't keep us from being hilarious!"

5. The “I’m really, really happy and you should be too” message. You’ve probably heard this message already today. A Pollyanna message delivered with lilting voice ends with “have a fantastically super great day.” Now if your day turns out to be crappy, you feel guilty and want to call them back and apologize.

I didn't have a great day. How will I ever face them again?

6. The “You bothered me because…?” message. These are abrupt and almost threatening , meant to discourage you from ever calling again. They work.

Don't you realize I'm not here, you idiot!"

Well, such is life in the age of digital phone technology. It provides a platform for even the least mentally adroit of us to put ourselves out there. Sort of like my blog.

DISCLAIMER: If case any of you reading this are using any of these messages on your phone, this blog was written by an unidentified blogger who hacked into my site. And have a super fantastic great day. Really.

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23 thoughts on “And now, not answering your call, the incomparable, the inimitable……..

  1. Firstly very smart new look. The only thing is it’s hard to see where you cursor is when you’ve made a typo in the comment box. I’ve just found that out. Anyway, I’ve been found guilty of leaving a silly message on the answering machine so I just play it by the book now

    1. Truth be told, I had my home phone message privileges revoked a long time ago. My wife has custody of that part of our phone service. However, my cell phone is a different story.

  2. Having recent experience in the “of a certain age” dating scene, I hasten to add the “come and get me” messages designed to put a flutter in the heart of the caller. Not pretty.

        1. LOL! Smart lady, Peg.

          Our message is left by my sweet wife and her lilting voice. For the record, and in case she reads this, I heartily endorse her message 100%.

  3. I’ve left messages with different accents. My Nebulous Eastern European Accent may have gotten me on some CIA watch-list. I hear odd clicks on my phone every once in a while. Of course, it just could be poor cell service on my disposable, untraceable phone during my overseas calls to my contacts, um, relatives.

    I tend to go with the apologetic approach, because I genuinely feel the caller must feel awful having missed the chance to talk to me live and in person. πŸ˜‰

  4. misswhiplash

    Personally we do not have a phone that takes messages so we do not have the problem… But when I worked for the Inland Revenue (Inspector of Taxes) I made this one to go on the phone.

    Hello, This is Patrecia at Redhill 2
    So Pleased I am to speak to you
    Do not panic or put down the phone
    Just speak clearly after the tone..
    Then when I have a minute or two
    I shall pick up the phone and speak with you….

    it went down well with the irate tax-payers who were phoning to complain about something

    1. Very novel idea, Patrecia and a good poem. But if I were an angry customer I would probably reply:

      Patrecia at Redhill, I have a complaint
      Taxes are necessary, but your poetry ain’t
      It’s the size of my bill that I don’t care about
      So stop with the verse and give me a shout.

  5. This was hilarious because it’s true. I secretly erased my husband’s message: If you’re calling to sell us something, we’re not interested. And don’t call back.

    Not a great message for prospective employers phoning to offer me an interview to hear…

    1. He should have ended it with “and have a lousy day!” Seriously, I know it’s tempting with all the annoyance calls but it put you in a spot. So what category are you in now?

Your turn to write, but please don't be wittier than me. My ego is quite fragile.

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