Friday, September 04, 2009

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World, Number Twenty-Eight

28. No more long answering machine or voice mail greetings.

We know what to do. I do, at least, and so should everyone else. Voice mail is not a new technology and we don't need directions on how to use it.

Everytime I call someone and hear "Hi. I'm sorry I missed you, but your call is important to me. At the sound of the tone, leave your name and number and a message and I'll call you back. Or if this is urgent, dial zero and get an operator. Or press 5 to leave a numeric page. Thanks..." or something like that, I cringe and try not to realize that if I wasted just 15 seconds per day listening to messages like that, over the course of a lifetime that would amount to nearly four days.

Which means that if you have a message like that, you're robbing me of four days of my life.

Instead, try this: Your name. Your number. That's it. All I need to know when I call is that I got the right person. I understand the rest.

Phones are really the only technology we leave express instructions for using. We don't leave notes on the door saying "If you stopped by and I'm not in, please knock on the door, then ring the bell, then look into the door for a moment to see if I'm home, then look at the doorbell again and press it while listening carefully to see if it's working, then shrug and decide that next time you'll call." My emails don't automatically respond with I probably won't check these until later today or tomorrow, and if I don't want to respond to you I'll just let it hang in my inbox for a while, so you might want to send a second email asking me if I got the first." But with phones, we assume that everyone calling us is completely unfamiliar with the technology they used to call us.

If you do have one of those ultra-long messages, ask yourself this: What about the people that call you more than one time? Sitting through it once might be tolerable, but sitting through your spiel four times a week?

As I've said before, not every way of improving the world needs to be a giant governmental solution. You can make things better all on your own, in a small but important way. Change your answering machine message and quit stealing my days.

13. Ban driving any kind of automobile, motorcycle or other personal vehicle within 1-2 miles of downtown in any city with a population of more than 100,000.

12. Abolish gym class; instead, teach kids to play musical instruments.

11. Change copyright laws to allow anyone to use anyone else's creative work provided that the copier pay 60% of the profit to the originator and that the copier not cast the original work in a negative light.

10. Have more sidewalk cafes and outdoor seating.

9. When you have to give someone a gift, ask them what they want, and then get that thing for them.

8. Never interrupt or finish someone's jokes.

7. Periodically, give up something you like for at least a month.

6. Switch to "E-money."

5. Have each person assigned one phone number, and then add an extension for the various phones and faxes that person might be reached at.

4. Abolish Mondays and Tuesdays.

3. Don't listen to interviews with athletes or comedians.

2. Have "personal cashiers" at the grocery store.

1. Don't earn more than $200,000 per year.

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