Yeah, I'm that old ...When I call someone, I’m not expecting an answering machine. And I often get an answering machine (Yes, I’m aware that most answering machines are actually answering services, I’m old, until last year I still had a rotary dial phone).

Kelly – speechless??

So what happens when my call is answered by a machine or answering service? I usually hang up. Why? Well, I’ve given this some thought. I dial the phone after rehearsing the script of talking to the person I’m calling. I have not rehearsed a one-sided message for an answering machine. I can’t keep two potential conversations in my mind even if one of them is one sided.

It’s a type of transition, and It flusters me

I’ve actually tried to leave a message and ended up leaving what I perceive to be a garbled mess of uninformative gibberish. On one memorable occasion of trying to leave a message, I called back 20 seconds later to clarify what I had been trying to say – I left more gibberish I think. I ended up leaving the person I was calling with the perception that I was crowding them.

Another part of this situation is that in conversation I try to take cues from the person I’m conversing with. If I get an answering machine, I can’t modify my conversation accordingly, there is no feedback.

Knowing that I don’t have this conversational crutch just serves to fluster me further. More meaningless mindless messages …

There ought to be a word for that …

It’s a chewed up bunch of misguided and de-prioratized bullet points of non-information in a soup of extra verbiage intended to elucidate yet capable only of obfuscation

So what do you call that meandering mess of blithering that is as uninformative as it is unsettling? I call it a “messtication.” It’s a chewed up bunch of misguided and de-prioratized bullet points of non-information in a soup of extra verbiage intended to elucidate yet capable only of obfuscation (I wish I could leave that on someones answering system).

How does that make you feel?

For me, messticating or leaving a messtication on someone’s answering service, is … well … flustering. It upsets me.

If I had my way, there would be no such thing as answering machines or voicemail. I’d be happy if everyone had the ability to receive texts. I can edit a text at my leisure. If I send a text without checking it first, shame on me. But when I hear “leave a message at the tone,” my mind freezes.

So sometimes, often actually, I hang up. Then I think, “They know I called, everyone has call display now. If they don’t, they can certainly punch in ‘*69’ and find out who dialed their number and wasn’t able to leave a message.”

Extreme voicemail hurdles

I have a friend whose anxiety gets amped up when she sees that someone has called but hasn’t left a message. She told me she worries about what the call was about. If the news was so bad they couldn’t leave it in her voicemail, it must have been bad.

I call her and she doesn’t answer. Her service tells me to leave a message but my anxiety won’t let me. She sees that someone called but didn’t leave a message. I know she’s anxious because she’s worrying about what I didn’t tell her and now I’m worrying about not leaving a message, I’m worrying about her worrying. We should just never use the phone at all!

Okay, that’s extreme, but I do have that friend, and we do both suffer from what I’ve described. It may be extreme, but I guess you’d say it’s an extreme friendship … that ought to be a competitive sport, don’t you think?

Less extreme voicemail hurdles  …

When I do hang up on other voicemail systems, I always have to retreat mentally, regroup and make a new plan

So I call back … after I get a new script in my head. Lord help me if they pick up when I’m expecting their answering machine … when that happens I usually just ask them “Could you just say ‘beep’ instead of hello?”




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    Last reviewed: 11 Apr 2012

APA Reference
Babcock, K. (2012). ADHD Answering Machine Blues. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 27, 2015, from


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