I am not important, at least not in the way people use that word. I hope I'm important to some people, and that my work is useful to several more people. But as Important People go, I'm not one of them. So don't take what I'm about to say as one of those self-important rants meant to offer instructions on how to increase your chances of accessing my fabulousness. I make that disclaimer because there are many such rants floating around the halls of the average, and they tend to make me snicker. No, this is just one of those "you know what's annoying...?" things that I'm sharing because it's far easier than reading some news and writing more meaningful thoughts.
People sometimes call me, on the phone, get my voice mail and decide to leave a message. I suppose the point of that is to share information that may inspire me to call them back. Something like "Hi Mar. This is Wendy next door. I found your pet elephant in my yard. She got out again. You really need to get a handle on this situation. My anthuriums are a mess now. Call me back." Or "I'm calling for Mar [Lastnamehere] from The Money Place. We have craploads of money for you. Just stupid piles of money with your name on them. Please call us back at 43GETMONEY."
Here is what will not inspire me to call you back: "Where are you? Why aren't you picking up? I've been calling forever [read, usually: all of 3 hours] and nothing. Is something wrong with your phone? I hate when this happens. [Angry noise.]" Right. First: I don't know who you are, which is part of the point of leaving a message. Second - the other key purpose of the voice message - I don't know what you want. And third: you've just succeeded in simultaneously freaking me out (is this stranger bleeding in a ravine somewhere and my phone is the only one he can connect to?) and pissing me off. All I've gathered from this message is that you've called before and that, ruling out the bleeding thing, you're pretty rude and demanding. Sometimes, of course, I recognize the voice, in which case you can skip straight to the freaking out about bleeding and the rude and demanding parts.
This kind of entitled telephone posturing isn't reserved for voice mails. Sometimes I do pick up, but apparently not soon enough, and hear this: "Hi. Your phone rang very long. You took forever to answer!" Why yes, I guess I did. And so now what? Am I meant to apologize for not having leapt to the phone? For having had to fish it from the bottom of my bag? For not keeping it tucked behind my ear while I shower? In any event, your call was successful. You now have me on the phone. Were you calling for some reason or just to judge me for my slow telephone response time?
Such questions might be part of regular conversation preamble, I concede. I'm not talking about those times. I'm not talking about the "Ooh your phone rang long. Were you asleep?" Or the "Where are you?! I'm teaching my dog how to roast a breadfruit! You should be here! It is the Best. Thing. Ever." openings. Those are an expected part of conversation. I'm talking about the people who scold you for daring to keep them on the phone 2 seconds longer than they deem you worthy of. Or the people who think they should be able to reach you immediately and always, because to not do so is clearly an insult to them and, in general, a very big problem indeed.
I live a reasonably simple life, in which I answer the phone when I am able and/or amenable, and don't answer it when I am not. When I don't answer, in most cases, I'm not nearby, or worse, I'm in the middle of an event, have forgotten to turn it off, and am trying with the sheer power of my brainwaves to deflect the sound so that the ringing seems to be coming from the opposite corner of the room and not from my purse. I tried that last night. It still doesn't work. In any event, I wasn't able to answer. There's no need to quiz me about it later. And what if it were the other thing? What if I was screening? Are you sure you want to trundle head first into this conversation when we run into each other later:
"I called you. Got your voice mail. Why didn't you pick up?"
"Well..the truth is, I hate you. Please refrain from calling ever again."?
There's one exception to this rule: my mother. (My father barges into conversation without so much as a hello and has stopped talking within 2 minutes flat, so this does not apply.) My mother can ask me any random silliness, and in fact does. It's part of the code when you're an adult daughter who doesn't speak to her mother nearly as often as she would like, and probably as you should. My mum has been known to start conversations with "I called the house today and no one answered. It rang 40 times. But I came by anyway because I thought someone might be home by the time I got here [5 minutes later]." And what can I say to that, besides "Oh man I'm really sorry about that. I told you I wouldn't be home remember...told you that this morning? But yeah...ugh...sorry."? So my mother can engage in the nonsense above. But if this describes any of you, and you're not my mother, please stop it at once.