There is something about voicemail that is so collected.
The measured beeping-ringing of the phone stops, and out of the audio void comes a voice. Default and robotic, maybe. Impersonal. Predictable. Or a recording – the person you are trying to reach can’t get to the phone right now, they’re busy, they’re on vacation, they are in some way absent. But leave a message – a name, number, a stumbling one-sided sentence that is missing its counterpart.
Those recordings can trick you. The warm hello can feel bodily – a hand must be holding a device to a mouth which must be uttering a greeting to you now. Then a “Hi” in response is cut off by the recorded command for later communication. You fall into an unnecessarily embarrassed quiet on your end (now revealed to be the only end) of the line.
Or maybe you were hoping for voicemail. Hoping to avoid interactions separated by one degree of technology. Maybe all you wanted was that recorded hello. Warm – for everyone. But this time all for you. Maybe you’ll ignore the invitation for a left-behind word or two – a bit of news or an inquiry – and instead hang up at the end of the speech which acts as the gatekeeper to the inbox.
Regardless, people want a voice in response. We need it.