Apparently I'm a voice mail hoarder.
On a long bus trip I took recently, I decided to finally go through an inbox that was filled to the brim. I had nearly 40 messages going all the way back to 2008. These weren't messages that had gone unchecked all that time, but ones that were saved for the memories. (I don't actually know how this is possible considering that every time I press save, the voice mail woman warns me that it will only be archived for 40 days).
Listening to the messages was like being hurled through an emotional time machine. There were ones that made me smile (amazing birthday greetings from friends who've now faded from my life), ones that made me laugh out loud and shake my head (weird and hilarious warnings from my mother about staying safe in the big, scary world), ones that made me cringe and question why I ever saved them (awkward dates that I've since had to re-erase from my memory).
It was an amazing whirlwind of emotion and I was thankful that the man seated next to me was asleep. I guess one of the reasons that I was able to save those messages for such a long time is that people don't really leave them anymore.
Since I spend much of my days at work cold-calling people, I hear all sorts of greetings that discourage the act. "You've reached ___________. I never check this, so don't leave a message." "Send me an email instead," they say, or, "Try my cell phone." And for those who still accept voice mail, you still don't necessarily have to listen. Voice mail transcription services are becoming more common.
In a Boston Globe article a couple years back, James Siminoff, the founder of the voice mail transcription service PhoneTag, said that it takes an average of six seconds to read a voice mail, versus 79 to listen to it. The company also estimates that the average person checks voice mail six to eight hours after it was recorded.
Sure, I have to admit that I am sometimes annoyed when I have to press 1, dial my password, press 1 again and listen, when you could have just sent a text saying, "Running late." (Yes, I still have a phone that requires those steps). But there are some messages that are just worth it. I had messages from friends about the latest developments in the saga of a long-term crush, or issues in relationships that reminded me of just how fleeting life is. "HAPPY BDAY!!! <3 :-*" is just not the same.
Maybe some people are just over it. After all, the Facebook group "I hate when people call and don't leave a VOICEMAIL" only has 149 members, whereas the group "I Only Check My Voicemail To Get Rid Of The Little Icon On The Screen" has 2,756,297.
As for my inbox, it's down to 22 messages and I don't think those are going away anytime soon. Those messages have traveled with me, through friendships and hardships, from city to city and from phone to phone. My text messages haven't, and even if they had, it wouldn't mean as much as hearing my then two-year-old nephew say, "Love you Auntie Priska," for the first time.