“This is Suzie, I really want to talk to you, but . . .”
“Hello, thank you for calling Twinkie Doo Carpet, we really appreciate your call, but . . .”
And, round and round we go. When did we start talking to machines? And when did we start thinking this was okay? Were we ever asked if we wanted to start having conversations with recording devices? It just sort of happened, didn’t it?
Answering machines started becoming de rigueur in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Having a rather large machine with two cassette tapes and lots of wires and a built-in microphone was the telephone task master of those who could not afford a secretary to field their business calls and catalog their conversations. It was the small businessman’s front desk friend; the private-entrepreneurial prerequisite for one-man office management. Trixie and Mable were no longer there. They had heard Gloria’s call, had burned their bras and were out the door.
Then the telephone answering machine wended its way into the home front. This seemed like a good idea for those with busy private – as well as professional – particulars that needed to be tended to on a 24/7 basis. Sort of an “I am important even when I am not available, don’t ya know?” The machine became known as a TAD (Telephone Answering Device) and the era of abbreviated convenience began with the FAX, ATM, PDQ and WTF soon complimenting our activities of daily living as well.
Then technology and trendsetters grabbed the TAD and we were off! It soon became common for people to be practicing and changing their “I am not here, but . . .” messages to cutsie tones with children, dogs and music decorating their “I’ll call you later” dictations. And, before we knew it, people thought that something was wrong with you and you were impolite NOT to have a TAD available to record their queries.
Remember how uncomfortable we used to be speaking to a TAD and leaving a message for someone to listen to at a later date? How we kind of “sweated” as we left those clumsy pauses and “ahs, ahems, and oh dears”? My, my how times have changed.
It has gotten to the point that we are almost grateful when voicemail (VM) picks up. (VM now being the post-cell-phone techno abbreviation for the original TAD.) We have become more than smooth at hearing ourselves leave “live speak” messages for a communication-destination person to eventually hear and respond to. And if we are lucky, they will leave us a VM and we can carry on the entire event without hearing another live voice.
And this brings us to another wonderful mode of communication: “Press 1 if you want to continue reading this article. Press 2 if you aren’t sure. Press 3 if you want to continue in English. Press 7 for a directory of other options. Press 5 if you want to scream and throw the phone across the room. And, please do not press ZERO because there is actually no one here to speak to and you will have to start all over again.”