(Problems Therewith)

At one of my old jobs we had a voicemail system. A pretty typical system run from a steel box with vents which we were discouraged from playing with. By way of cultivating a hip tech-company image, the music this machine played while its feeble switching circuits transferred you around to a DOS-infested 486 came from a much more capable Linux box with a couple days' of MP3s on a thematic-shuffle.

I hate voicemail. I'm as bad with it as with email, which I tend to let accumulate without answering until the spool hits quadruple digits, then I move it all to =received and start over. I read everything, but if I don't reply by the time it scrolls off the top of a 25-line xterm, it's not likely to get a reply. And voicemail is a horrible audio interface -- unlike mutt or trn, there is no n key; there's a "stop playing and go back to the index" key, and sometimes a "jump ten messages ahead" key. That's assuming you remember the number, which is mentioned in an interminably long recorded "menu" read by a woman who I'm sure is charming in real life, but coming out of a steel box makes me resent women's lib.

A consequence of this resentment is that I listen to the first message or two the machine reads to me, then hang up once something irritating and unabortable comes on. Recruiters, for one.

Occasionally, trying to empty out the box when the disk on the aforementioned 486 filled up, I'd turn on some music and my voicemail on a speakerphone, then read email, frequently whacking the 'd' key or the "delete message" number. Many of those messages would turn out to be personal, so it was like hosting a soap operatic theater piece complete with greek chorus and spam.

For a while I had a cubicle down a row from the tech support manager (I was eventually moved to a concrete box, formerly a bank vault [my option; the other options were a utility closet or getting open-planned], because management felt my cynical programmer attitude was lowering support staff morale). His approach was to walk down to the coffee shop first thing in the morning, buy a cup of something, return to his office. He'd dialup his voicemail, and pound on the delete digit for five minutes or so. This caused a rapid-fire stutter from the woman trapped in the vented steel box:

Message dele-messag-message d-messag- me- m-m- mess- message- messag- mess- m- me- messag-....

Incidentally, cell-carrier voicemail spam is approximately 5.7 billion times worse.

slash root