Posted by: Kate | January 5, 2009

Public Service Announcement: Voicemail

Apparently, the technology and procedures involved in today’s voice mail is far too complicated, so out of the goodness of my heart, I thought I would offer a detailed tutorial on how to use it.

Step 1: When you have called someone and reached their voice mail instead of a live person, wait for the tone, and then leave a message. This message should include your name, why you called, a callback number, and the date and time that you called. You can skip on any of these details as appropriate.

Step 2: Wait for a return phone call.

That’s it. Really.

Step 2 is the key here, of course. Note that it does not say, “Continue to call repeatedly over the next several hours or days, leaving an identical message every time.” This creates a sense of urgency, perhaps even emergency, which is not helpful to the listener. Particularly when, upon finally reaching you, the listener discovers that your message was, “Oh, we just wanted to let you know that your ultrasound results were normal and you can keep taking the Clomid.”

My mother-in-law could benefit from this same tutorial. She likes to leave multiple messages but not tell us how we should try to contact her; I don’t have her cell phone number and she screens her home phone, so reaching her voice mail is not necessarily a signal that she is out of town. (Though, now that I think of it, the tutorial my mother-in-law is more likely to benefit from is, “What to do when your son changes his phone number and doesn’t tell you.”)

Anyway, though, the voice mail thing. It’s not that complicated, truly! Leave a message, just once, and then stop calling. Trust the machine to do its job; the beauty of voice mail is that it just waits right where you left it until the other person comes along to play it.

I’m open to questions if this is too confusing.



  1. Egad. How about sending the office manager of the doctor’s office a helpful, polite little note on their current message-leaving procedures, and how they instill panic in the patient.

    There’s enough in life to make us crazy over big things, we don’t need worry-inducing, irrelevant phone messages!

  2. Hah. I’m glad your results are normal, now if just everyone could get a grip with their voicemail skills. I’ve got mad skills.

  3. I posess this knowledge but am really bad about leaving messages. the only people I typically call are my husband, parents and sister. I know all of their schedules so if they don’t answer, I don’t leave a message. There has been a time or two or three++++ that my sister and parents get after me for not leaving a message. They ALWAYS checks their Caller ID so I figure they can see I called and call me back. Hubby on the other hand, I always leave him messages and he never checks them, he sees it is me on the Caller ID and calls me back.
    We are just so LAME!

  4. You’re lucky to get the message at all. My GP never tells me the results of a test, I always have to phone up the practice nurses, who’re only available at some weird time like midday till two.

    I suppose she might deign to tell me if I were about to drop dead….

  5. I concur and would like to add that in the event a child is calling for her friend, and the voice mail picks up, it is not necessary to call back 30 seconds later and see if I answer the phone. Really, if I wasn’t home or didn’t want to talk to you the first time, I can guarantee I won’t pick up the second time. Or the third. Or the fourth. But I might contemplate calling your parents to complain.

  6. My MIL could benefit from this tutorial, also. First she’ll call my cell phone and send one of this “call back number” texts. Then she’ll call it back and leave a real voice message. Then she’ll call our house, then she’ll call Frank at work. Then she’ll call his cell phone. Then she’ll repeat the whole thing two hours later.

    I’m glad you got better news than you were expecting. Bah on them.

  7. Oh… and to vent a little further. I’m of the type that if I need you to call me back, I leave a message. If I don’t need you to call me back (like I just had a question and it wasn’t that important, or needed to see if you had a couple eggs I could borrow before I go to the store) then I don’t leave a message. Without fail my MIL will see our number on the caller ID and call us back even if we haven’t left a message. “Oh, I saw you called. What did you want?” I promise, if it wasn’t important enough for me to take 15 seconds to leave a message, it wasn’t important enough for you to call me back just based on your caller ID.

  8. Also, if you call and obviously get a business, don’t leave a message for your grandchild wishing them Merry Christmas or thanking them for the kind gifts. I came back from two weeks off and had two such messages from two different little old ladies!

  9. On the subject of businesses, if you are expecting a person to answer to arrange a HandiVan pickup to get you to your doctor’s appointment, leaving a message (without a name or number) on a machine that says “Hi, you’ve reached B&D, leave a message please” will result in you missing your doctor’s appointment as we are not the HandiVan service.

  10. At least it was good news! But, they shouldn’t have worried you so horribly.

  11. not “horribly” – more like “needlessly”. That sounds much better.

  12. It sounds like Lisa S. and I have the same MIL. We actually changed our home number and made up some story about it never being charged so she didn’t need the new number. Before we changed it, she would call and call and call- and since we’d gotten tired of hearing 5+ minute long messages from her, we shut off the voicemail…so she’d let it ring a good 50 times before hanging up and trying again…then our cell phones…then again with the house number.

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