You're either there or you're not

As much as I love caller ID and voicemail, I think they have complicated my ways of communicating by phone. There seems to be a secondary form of communication to a primary form of communication.

Back when all calls were on landlines and there was no caller ID, the answering machine was the only way to leave a message when nobody was able to pick up the phone. Now with all the stuff we have with call waiting, caller ID, and voicemail, getting a returned phonecall seems like a complicated issue.

I know that we all have busy lives and cell phones are a wonder for us. That said, there are times where I'm incredibly frustrated with the nature of leaving a message. To leave a message or not, that is the question.

In college, a rule of thumb a friend of mine had was, if they don't leave a message, it's not about something that's important. I begged to differ as some people want answers or information that can't wait. For example, what if you were having a medical emergency or a major crisis and needed to alert a family member immediately? What would be the use of leaving a message if the voice message didn't get played back until later? Besides, you can't gauge when the person will hear your message or even return your call.

Now with caller ID, I get returned phonecalls even when I don't leave a message. That's a nice thing for me, especially if just want to chat with somebody. If I call somebody, I want to talk to that person. I don't call people in hopes I don't reach them.

So this leads me to a conundrum: there are certain people that I call and leave a message if I don't get them. Sometimes (but not all the time), I don't get a returned phonecall in a timely fashion (or at all). Is there some sort of grace period between my initial call and trying to call the person again? I think so, but how's about this situation:

1) I call a friend and he or she doesn't pick up.
2) I leave a message for him or her, and patiently wait for a call back.
3) The person calls me back, but at an inconvenient time for me.
4) I say I will call the person back later that day.
5) However, when I call that person back, I miss the person again.
6) I leave another message, essentially calling back to a call back I instigated.
7) So what am I to think when that person doesn't call me back after leaving this second message?

Yes, that's a very complicated, multi-step deal, but is there some sort of expiration date on getting a returned phonecall? I guess so. That's why I choose to take the attitude of, either you're there or you're not. If you're not, I'll try back later. Cell phone voicemail isn't the most reliable thing, and not everybody remembers to call everyone back (I'm guilty of this as well).

Keep in mind, all of the phonecalls I'm referring to are to friends and/or family. Sometimes the gist of why I'm calling is very important, but sometimes it's just to talk. Am I just an impatient fellow about this issue? Whatever happened to, "I call you, you call me back, and vice versa"?