There is a phone game I really hate playing. Phone tag. You don’t need to download an app and it’s absolutely free to play, but the main problem is every player thinks that the other player is having more fun than they are.
There was a writing workshop that I showed interest in a couple months ago. The woman running it posted her phone number on the flier and I called. The first time, I left a message. Then she called me back a couple of weeks later to see if I was still interested in signing up and at the time my situation had changed drastically and I wasn’t sure I could show up. Fast forward to the 23rd, a day before the workshop.
By now, I have a lot of free time and I’ve been trying to get back into the discipline of writing regularly. I had a meeting with the director of volunteers for the Salem school district at a coffee shop where I saw the flier for the same creative writing workshop. I saw the date and thought, “Oh, that’s tomorrow” and after the meeting, I called. Nothing.
I called a second time, no more than an hour later thinking she was just away from her desk and that I could maybe catch her. Nothing.
On my way home from the library, I stopped at the Salem Anatheum where the workshop was going to be held, to see if the woman in charge of the workshop actually worked there or if anyone who did work there knew more about the event. Unfortunately, this woman was an outside party and the staff at the Anatheum only knew for certain that she used her own personal number on the fliers.
So when I got home, I saw that I had a message. Because I wasn’t busy, I checked my voice mail and there she was again, the woman who called me originally to ask if I was still interested in the workshop. Only this time, she was acting like I was some kind of creepy stalker because, to quote her, “Your number showed up on my Call ID TWICE and I don’t know what you want because you haven’t left a message.”
Let’s get this thing out of the way. If I see a phone number on a flier, I’m going to assume that’s the number to call in order to partake in the service that’s being offered. Just like a pizza place has their phone number listed, I assumed this woman was putting a business phone down and that she was simply away from the desk/office at the time. I had no way of knowing that this was her personal cellphone number and no incentive to leave a message on the answering machine if she wasn’t going to set up her voice mail to even make that clear that it was one or the other. I just kept getting the standard automated voice message which, by the way, is now the standard default message on land lines as well.
Here’s the other thing. Every time I make a phone call, once that line connects, my minutes start slowly slipping away. So if I leave a message, it’s usually an emergency, or it’s a potential employment or volunteer situation, or some other instance where I need or would like you to call me back. I didn’t absolutely have to go to this workshop and I could understand if there wasn’t any space left, so when I couldn’t get a hold of her, I stopped calling.
Then I saw her number and since I had only missed the call by a few minutes, I thought I would try calling her to see if I could catch her before she left the desk again. When she didn’t answer, that was when I checked the voice mail where it was revealed that the fabulous power of mind reading was apparently bestowed upon me sometime in the last month or so. For the same reason I don’t like to leave messages unless I have to, if I see someone’s number on my call ID, I would rather try to call back and have a real conversation as opposed to listening to a voice mail that I can’t directly respond to.
I’m sure there are many schools of thought regarding voice mail ettiquette. I’m sure someone will chime in to tell me how wrong I am to assume that someone who puts a phone number down on a flier that they have put up all over town, will probably expect to get calls from people wondering why the voice mail message is generic and not very professional. But at least I won’t have to worry about whether the workshop was a waste of time now.