Pick Up If Voice Mail Drives You Crazy

There's a movement afoot to protest the longwindedness of voice mail messages, both on cell phones and land lines. A contributor to one blog mentions a "campaign to eliminate asinine voice mail instructions." If there is such a campaign, commentator Alice Furlaud would like to join it.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

There's a movement afoot against longwinded voicemail greetings and those automated instructions you hear when you record a message on somebody's cell phone. New York Times columnist has even started a protest campaign.

Alice Furlaud has her own thoughts on the matter. But we warn you, Ally is not an objective reporter.

Unidentified Woman #1: Your call has been forwarded to automatic voice message system. At the tone, please record your message. When you have finished recording, you may hang up or press one for more options.

(Soundbite of a beep)

Ms. ALICE FURLAUD (Columnist, The New York Times): Oh dear, and none of the options are at all helpful.

My friend Claire, who has that voicemail, told me that when she didn't record any instructions on her new cell phone, those longwinded ones were installed willy-nilly by the telephone company.

Unidentified Woman: We did not get your message, either because you were not speaking or because of a bad connection. To disconnect: press one. To record your message: press two.

Ms. FURLAUD: I much prefer my friend Mary's message.

Ms. MARY GORINO: Hello. You've reached Mary Gorino. Please leave a message and I will call you back. Thanks.

Ms. FURLAUD: That's all Mary wanted to say, but the phone company added the following instructions without her permission.

Unidentified Woman #2: To leave a voice message: press one or just wait for the tone. To send a numeric page, press two now. At the tone, please record your voice message. When you are finished recording, you may hang up or press pound for more options.

Ms. FURLAUD: And if you opt for the options, the computer lady goes on for another minute and five seconds. Calls to National Public Radio are answered by a man. That's a nice change and he sounds friendly.

Unidentified Man: This is National Public Radio. If you know the extension you want, please dial it now, followed by the pound sign.

Ms. FURLAUD: But after you dial, the answer is puzzling.

Unidentified Woman #3: The party you have called cannot be reached. You may leave a message or transfer to another extension. To transfer out of Expressions, push zero.

Ms. FURLAUD: Expressions? What are they? But I pushed zero. And as I've been wondering what President Obama's voicemail would sound like, I called the White House.

Unidentified Man #2: White House.

Ms. FURLAUD: Oh, I'm sorry. I've got the wrong number. Sorry.

Gosh, a real live person answering the grandest number in the country. Anyway, I wish everyone who hasn't a large staff to answer their telephones would keep their instructions brief, like my friend Sara's.

SARA: Leave a message.

Ms. FURLAUD: But my favorite voicemail message is one by a nine-year-old neighbor.

Unidentified Child: Hi, you've reached the home of Margaret and Allison and all our pets: Torrey, Iggy, Spooks and Milo. Sorry we missed your call. We'll get back to you as soon as we can. Thanks. Bye.

Ms. FURLAUD: For NPR News, I'm Alice Furlaud at an unlisted number on Cape Cod.

SIMON: This is NPR News.

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