I have often bemoaned herein the erosion of social niceties that are being abandoned in favor of needless speed—the constant abbreviating of perfectly good words that require barely any time to say or type properly, people rushing past common courtesies to more quickly reach completely unimportant destinations, and, as discussed recently, Amazon’s blatant disrespect for the rules of science in its unnaturally fast delivery times.
Of course, it isn’t the speed which I find so objectionable; it’s the stupidity. It’s the absence of value, the lack of necessity. It’s these same objections that have also compelled me to criticize that which is too slow: the pace of tourists in New York City, the time it takes to reach a customer service person with any ability to help in any way, the time it takes my old brain to think up a third example for the sake of symmetry.
Now, I’ve been using telephones since the 1960s. Like all of us, I’ve had to learn to operate an impressive variety of phone-call-making apparatuses over the years. I’ve seen them wired into the wall, plugged into phone jacks, and recharged on cradles. I’ve dialed them, pushed their buttons, typed numbers into computer screens, and even spoken digits into a tiny microphone. In recent years, I’ve adapted to a ridiculous number of new models and annoying updates. And so, I’d say I’m a fairly experienced phone user. As such, over the years, I’ve left a lot of messages—with answering services, parents, spouses, assistants, secretaries, receptionists, answering machines, and voicemail. I’m pretty good at it. Aren’t we all at this point, especially in this day and age, when we are hardly ever separated from our phones?
Why then, I ask, are we still sitting through an audio primer in the form of our friend or colleague’s outgoing message? “Hi. It’s Lyle. I’m away from my phone right now. Please leave a message after the beep and I’ll call you back as soon as possible.” Yes. Thank you, Lyle. I believe we’re all familiar with the procedure. Still, thanks for the refresher. Now may we leave you a message?
Oh no, my friends. Because Lyle’s casually helpful how-to is followed by a more professional-sounding recorded voice offering more official instructions on how to leave a message:
“At the tone, please record your message.”
Good God, is anyone anywhere still confused on this?
“When you have finished recording, you may hang up . . .”
May we? May we indeed? How gracious of you. Just a moment while I jot that down. There’s just so much to remember.
“. . . or press one for more options.”
Wait . . . I’m leaving a blasted message for Lyle. Who asked for more options? I don’t need options. I just want to leave my message and move on to the next item in my day.
. . . All right, I’ll bite, damn it. What are the options?
“If you are satisfied with your message, press one.”
Is one ever really satisfied?
“To listen to your message, press two.”
Why would I need to listen to it? I can still remember seven seconds ago when I recorded it. I want Lyle to listen to it.
“To erase and rerecord your message, press three.”
Honestly, I don’t think I can do it any better.
“To continue recording from where you left off, press four.”
You mean starting from when I said, “Good bye”? No thanks. At the risk of sounding overconfident, I’d say I’m pretty satisfied with my message. So I’m going for broke and pressing one. But now . . .
“To send normal delivery, press one.”
Oh for heaven’s sake.
“To send urgent delivery, press two.”
Urgent? Are you kidding me, robot lady? It’s way too late for urgent. Had there been an emergency, the amount of time it’s taken to wade through all of these instructions and options would have assured the direst of outcomes.
I guess the point I’m making is this: Things worth taking time for are worth taking time for. Gutting those things for the sake of valueless speed is idiotic. And things that are needlessly lengthy and waste time are just as idiotic. As for the time spent writing this piece (or, in your case, reading it), that was precisely appropriate.