A while ago, I wrote a blog about how voicemail has started to annoy me. It's something about that long-winded robotic woman giving me instructions about what I can do when I'm done leaving my message, and my friends' rambling outgoing greetings about how I should leave my name and number and they'll call me back at their earliest convenience. Yes, I understand how all this stuff works. I've been using phones for many years.
But lately, I find myself dreading the other part of voicemail: checking it.
For example, when I see that I have five messages on my work phone, I just know that most of them will be from people asking me for something (like money, editorial coverage or a job) or yelling at me for something (like a story we've written, a business listing they don't like or the lack of editorial coverage from a previous message).
Frankly, most of the good news I get these days is via e-mail or text message. Short, succinct and immediate. They don't linger over me like voicemail does, the red light and its omniscient caller ID on my phone taunting me until I check them all and respond one by one. Sometimes, they're even hang ups, which I didn't know was possible in the post-answering machine days.
Worse still are the calls that come in as "unavailable," "private" or "blocked." Those go straight to voicemail now, and they almost never bring good news when I finally get around to listening to them.
On my beloved iPhone, it's even weirder, since I see who the message is from and how long it is. I can skip back and forth and pick and choose. Right now, for example, I'm staring at a message from a friend I'd like to talk to, but can only imagine why he has left me a voicemail that's two minutes and 37 seconds long. If it was really important, it would be short and sweet -- or better yet, a 10-word text message. Instead, I fear I'm about to delve into a breathy monologue that, at this point, I only have time to listen to on the drive to and from work.
I realize how paranoid all of this sounds, and it's entirely possible that I'm just feeling burned out from covering the busiest two weeks of the year at OnMilwaukee.com -- Summerfest and the days leading up to it.
But I like quiet, and the phone does a great job of breaking my concentration. Actually listening to those five messages smashes it to pieces. Ignoring them, however, makes me feel like "that guy," the one who doesn't return peoples' calls (and I don't like that guy very much at all).
So, when my outgoing message says, "I'll get back to you as soon as possible," I'm being honest. Unfortunately, "ASAP" might be a day or two until I gather the gumption to stare down my phone and listen to the ever-growing pile of voicemail.
Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.
Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.
Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.