Voicemail ESP

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.”

About WhiteElephantInTheRoom

I'm an 80s music lover, traveling junkie, mac & cheese connoisseur, amateur wine snob, party-planning priestess and Chicago transplant living in Southern California. I find adventure in the everyday and have a unending compulsion to write about it. Hope you enjoy reading my mind!
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12 Responses to Voicemail ESP

  1. paywindow7 says:

    I wouldn’t know, I’m using the two cans with a string in between ’em. I have noticed I haven’t had many calls lately. I might need to rewax the string.


  2. Dor says:

    Technology generates odd behaviors for sure! Love your delving into tendencies to guess or assume what people are doing when they don’t answer! I have taken to just hanging up and since my son can detect who called, he calls back without me even having to say “Call me.” Must be the mystery of the blank message huh?

  3. Synne Larsen says:

    I have never thought about this, but yeah, I guess we do talk about what the person might be doing instead of picking up the phone.

  4. nancyfrancis says:

    I’m terrible with voicemail – in that I never check my own. I figure these days with caller ID and texting, whats the point? If I missed your call, you know that I’ll see your name on my phone and call you back when/if I feel like it – its not necessary to say on the phone that you called, I already know this information. If it goes straight to voicemail, however, I may not get the missed call notification (ie. if I’m on the subway) so send me at text!

    I normally only get around to checking my voicemails after I get irritated emails from my Mother or Father stating that my voicemail box is full – of mostly just messages from them! But you’re right, when I do eventually check the messages, and only listen to about the first 5-10 seconds, they generally start with a presumption of why I’m not answering the phone.

    They are usually wrong though, I hate talking on the phone and usually just hit end when I was otherwise not engaged in any of the activities that they suggest 😉

  5. stevebetz says:

    There is a subtle psychology of the caller at work in those callback messages isn’t there? On one side there’s the passive aggressive “When you’re not busy, I hope you’ll call me back…” or the egocentric “you must be away from your phone…(not to take my call)” to the timid “call me back, you know, if you want…”

    I’m going to pay attention to those more than I have been — you know, before I delete them without really listening to them…

  6. Pingback: An example of what not to do when trying to become a screenwriter | Totally knew that. Or…maybe not.

  7. aquaterra24 says:

    The best message ever left on an answering machine comes from the movie “When Harry Met Sally.” Harry Burns leaves this message on Sally’s machine: “The fact that you’re not answering leads me to believe you’re either (a) not at home, (b) home but don’t want to talk to me, or (c) home, desperately want to talk to me, but trapped under something heavy. If it’s either (a) or (c), please call me back.” Classic!

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