I’ve been noodling around with Google Voice recently,* which has involved recording new voicemail greetings. I used to get fancy with my greeting, doing the whole leave-a-pause-after-the-hello-to-make-it-sound-like-I-picked-up trick. I also instigated a game of phone tag in a past message, but a number of callers pointed out that my logic didn’t work, that based on semantics, I was the “it” of Phone Tag, so ending my greeting with “Phone tag, you’re it!” was just wrong.
It’s laughable, how much stock and pressure we put into recording voicemail greetings. I guess it just goes to show that growing older than eighteen and paying your own phone bill do not a voiceover actor make. Thankfully for that, there are standard (albeit mechanical and icy) message greetings.
Fortunately I have a name that alliterates well with “message machine,” so I can keep it simple while appearing superficially witty. Overall, though, recording the voicemail greeting is a bitter childhood memory. When I was of the age that the voice of a kid under four-feet tall on the home messaging machine was cute, my mom would make me read the greeting. She would write it out, which is good practice for reading a statement aloud, but then she would get all manic backstage mom on me, and critique my inflections, huff-puff-and-restart whenever I paused in the middle of a sentence, and start in on the “Why can’t you just do as you are told” which would take a histrionic turn for “I do so much for this family” with enough verbal abuse to make me cry. – All over a freakin’ voicemail greeting.
Did that ever happen to you? The pressure of a thousand hypercritical angels analyzing your every syllable came shooting down as you narrated the seminal Family Voicemail Greeting to End All Family Voicemail Greetings? We didn’t have lawn competitions where I grew up, so I guess this was to be the equivalent.
My voice lasted on that message machine for as long as that console existed, and so did the vivid scene of sitting at the kitchen desk with my mom standing on my left, blowing heat and throwing shade on my poor performance. I’ve got to hand it to her, somewhere between the sobs and the belittling, she found the voice in me…enough to last fifteen seconds on the message machine. I’m not emotionally scarred about it, I just figure it was one of her Betty Draper moments.
When the machine died – some time during high school – and my mom asked me to record the voicemail greeting, I firmly said, “No, I am not doing that.”
She looked at me with wide eyes.
“What do you mean, you’re not ‘doing that’?”
“I am not doing that. When you made me read that as a kid, you got all crazy, so I am not doing that.” Snowballs in Hell, Mom. Snowballs in Hell.
Furious, she’d storm off and eventually sucker my brother into it. To this day I roll my eyes and chuckle a bit whenever my attempt to call home ends up on the land line’s message machine. Some crazy digital gong sound trigged by – and very carefully coordinate with – an alarm clock goes off as my then-teenage brother reads off her script,
GONG This is five-five-five, four-two-five-three. Please leave your GONG-essage after the beep. [awkward pause as he awaits the final toll of the gong] GONG Beep.”
Funnily enough, whenever I’ve gotten a new phone and not taken the time to make a new greeting, she has commented (somewhere in a five-minute-long voicemail that only a mother could record), “You should record a greeting, and not do that automatic thing. It would just be nice to hear your voice on the end of the line.” This from the woman whose name is “This is May?” according to Sprint Mobile.
This is one of the few reasons why I enjoy paying my own phone bill. And if I ever measure short on confidence during the ramp up to “Hi, this is So-and-So,” with the iPhone, there’s probably an app for that.