“I will call you back as soon as possible”

Posted on November 1, 2006
Filed Under Timely Issues | Leave a Comment

Telephone“At the sound of the tone, please leave your message and I will call you back as soon as possible.”

How many times have you heard that message? Maybe you even use a statement like that for your voice mail message. The next time you get a message like that one, use the opportunity to engage in a philosophical thought exercise. Consider the possible meanings of the phrase “as soon as possible.” Does it mean returning the call at the precise moment the message was received, or simply in the order it was received? Maybe it means: “You might get a call after I come up for air and catch up on all the other urgent issues in my life.” I try to imagine my friends frantically dialing the phone upon hearing my message and getting back to me A.S.A.P.

Of course, the phrase “as soon as possible” is typically used in an existentially relative sort of way. Calls are usually returned based on where the caller ranks on an unspoken priority list. Telemarketers don’t stand a chance. Who ever returns their calls? The boss calling to see if you can work next weekend: Message? What message? Your wife or husband? The local radio station calling to say they picked your name for the $1,000 cash giveaway and you have 20 minutes to call back to claim your prize?

You can learn a lot about a person by what they say on their voice mail message. The no nonsense people say, “You know what to do when you hear the beep.” The co-dependent person says, “Please leave a message and I will do whatever you ask if it will make you like me.” The pessimist says, “You can leave a message if you want, but don’t hold your breath for a call back; it probably isn’t going to happen.”

The point is that calls get returned based upon how interested one is in the message and how strong the relationship is with the caller. So, in the bigger scheme of things, what you do with every voice mail message is a microcosmic picture of how you view life. OK, maybe that is going a bit too far, but it does say something about what you think is important. How quickly would you return any of the following voice mail messages: a call from the CEO who wants to discuss the open VP position? The governor’s assistant with an invitation to a reception for a visiting dignitary? Jesus Christ and something about the meaning of life?

The next time you get a voice mail prompt that says, “… and I will call you back as soon as possible…,” leave a message telling the person to relax, to get back to you whenever is convenient, and to think about the philosophical implications of the message.


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