I was recently watching a Sex and the City episode from way back in yesteryear – back when the average person didn’t carry a cell phone and Carrie was still using a rotary. She and Mr. Big were in a fight and she was screening her calls the old-school way, by waiting for the “I know you’re there Carrie. It’s me, pick up” hopefully followed by an apologetic soliloquy. But how could he know she was waiting by the phone and not in the shower, or busy writing, or out sipping cosmos? Why does not answering the phone trigger amateur attempts at clairvoyance?
These days, while screening has evolved to photo caller ID and personalized ringback tones – rendering the need for psychic powers one-sided – callers still can’t resist the urge to spend the first half of their voicemail prophesizing about exactly what you might be doing whilst not answering their calls.
We read ringtones like tarot cards and leave voicemail preambles like audio fortune cookies. An unanswered call elicits a message prefaced by “you’re probably still sleeping,” or “you must be out to dinner,” or “guess you finally made it to page 96 of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” A call sent directly to voicemail prompts suppositions of, “sorry to call while you’re obviously in a meeting,” or “you must be on a plane.” And if your caller happens to notice the gentle beep indicating you’re likely passing their call by while talking to someone else, you can expect a pseudo-telepathic, “sounds like you’re probably on with your mom,” or “you must be trying to call me.”
We are all guilty of attempting voicemail ESP at one time or another, and with Facebook status updates and Foursquare check-ins broadcasting our friends’ and family’s every move, our crystal balls are probably spot on. But why we consistently ignore the greeting’s simple request to “leave a brief message” is beyond the realm of my second sight. Perhaps I’ll move away from the fortune cookies and move directly to the candy heart approach – a text that just says “Call Me.”