In Defense of Voicemail

When I was a kid, I use to love to come home and run into the kitchen to see if a little red light was blinking on the phone. I thought voicemails were the coolest thing in the world. Like it’s a really nice of saying, hey I wanted to share something with you and it can’t wait so I’m going to talk to this machine until you pick up your goddamn phone.

As the young folks would say, voicemails were lit.

But then the Facebook Wall came along, and as Facebook likes to remind me everyday, your Wall used to be lit. It used to be like a public voicemail system where everyone could see how many people wanted to leave you a message and you could reply in an instant with a few simple keystrokes.

The Wall was lit.

But now we just send text messages to one another and wait for that instant gratification, because who even checks their voicemail. Like how many of you briefly remembered voicemails at the start of this post, but had it slowly fade away when Facebook came up.

Voicemail is like that one guy on every sports team whose a great guy to have on the team but you’d never by his jersey. Or like the bassist in a band – you know they are there, but do you really care about them? Because Voicemail still does exist but no one really cares anymore.

But you should.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not any sort of voicemail determinist. I was #TeamNoVoicemail for a very long time. After I had left for university, my parents would call me on the regular and I would be out or my phone would be dead, and they would leave a voicemail. I still think those voicemails are unheard four years later.

I went to go spend some time with my parents about a year ago (imagine it like the Parents episode of Masters of None where as soon as Aziz walked into the door he became tech support for the baby boomers) and my parents were really excited to show me something. I thought they would want to show me their new bathroom modeled like one my mom saw on HGTV or their new standing shower that was built for Mike Holmes but by a cheaper contractor who isn’t on HGTV but probably should be.

Instead, we sat in the living room; my dad turned to our answering machine and played me this message from my nephew, Jayden.

I laughed. I couldn't help it. Jayden's last name isn't Jaffer, and he tried to sound so professional for such a small child.

I went home again recently, and the little red light on our answering machine was blinking. I hit it and it was just a telemarketer trying to sell my parents windows. I probably got 3 seconds into the message before I deleted it. But then the machine kept going. It prompted itself and said 'next message'.

Jayden's voice was back. He said his name was Jayden Jaffer. It was the same page.

A year later, still sitting on our crappy cordless Uniden phone was the voice of my nephew.

As the message played again, I saw smiles on my parents faces, and even I laughed. Its weird because the message is almost two years old, my nephew still shows up to my parents place every weekend, but still, they love hearing his voice.

It was a odd feeling when this hit me: we secretly really like voicemails. Secretly though. Don't tell your parents that or else you won't hear the end of it. But the idea of the voicemail is so...fresh in a ocean full of instant messaging. You can send a homie a message and tell them what's up or send them the best Ted Cruz meme you can find, but when you call someone, you have a message they need to hear.

No one ever wants to ever encounter a voicemail machine, because now, a call denotes urgency that a text can not fulfil. It means that they are emotions that need to be stated that can't be conveyed in a text message. It means you want them to hear your voice and respond instantly. But when you meet their voicemail, you hang up.

Stop doing that, Let that robotic voice play out and state how you feel. Don't let that message fade away and stay in the depths in your mind where you store your cliché Simpsons quote. Don't have a cow and put yourself out there because you never know how that message will resonate. Or how long they would keep it saved on their electronic device cased in plastic.

Call a friend. If them answer, ask they how they are doing. If they don't, leave a message and tell them exactly what you want to say. They'll appreciate it.