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