Judge John Hodgman Episode 67: Call in the Family


Katy's big brother Steve gets on her nerves, as all good brothers do -- and he's had one unbreakable and annoying habit for over a decade. He refuses to leave a voicemail to say "call me back!" and instead relies on a missed call list as an indicator that he's trying to get in touch. Katy says, the rest of the world believes in leaving messages, and he should too! Who is right?



Steve's side.

I also put my vote in for Steve's system. That is what I do.

On Steve's Side

Just wanted to add that my boyfriend and I are on Steve's side. My mom leaves me rambling voicemails about nothing and then just says to call her back. Such a waste of time!

Spamming the engine

Just a note that the callback to one's "spamming the engine" of a device or process did not go unnoticed, or un-grinned-at.

Is this an Evansville thing?

I'm from Evansville, too, and everyone in my family uses Steve's missed call system except my mom who insists on leaving a message no matter what. This leads to me devaluing the content of her messages. I always assume her message is a variation on, " I'm just calling to see how things are going." Most of the time I'm right, but if there happens to be a message that is more important, I may not get to it until much later. All this to say, "Don't leave a message unless it's important or time sensitive."

Why was

Wade Goodwyn arguing with his sisters? There is no way Steve was 37 years old. That was Wade Goodwyn from NPR.

I'm with Steve!

My whole family uses Steve's system of missed call vs voicemail. I don't know exactly when it came to be this way, but it worked out organically sometime after we all had cell phones and no longer used landlines.

In our system a missed call means "I called with nothing specific or urgent, and we will connect later." This leaves the ball in the receivers court to call back when and if they want to. If you require a call back or it is important, you leave a message. Pretty simple and works perfectly.

With this set up you never have to listen to your mother leave message after message saying, "Hi, it's mom, just called to say hello, call me back when you can." I just know that if I missed her call, I will call her back at my convenience, and if she leaves a voicemail she has something to say.

I wish this was the case across the board, but it's not. At least in my family we save a lot of time not listening to or leaving voicemail.

I don't think the issue is

I don't think the issue is that Steve is leaving calling without leaving messages. The issue is Steve will call multiple times in a row without leaving a message. If it isn't urgent, of course it is fine to hang up without leaving a message. It just seems Steve gets pissy when he calls multiple times and doesn't leave a message and his sister doesn't call him back. If he needs to talk, then he needs to leave a message. Steve's claim is the "code" is if he calls and hangs up it isn't important to call him back. With Steve being upset that he isn't getting calls back, he is violating his code.