Throughout life, even before cell phones and even before call waiting, I’ve called people on the phone sometimes initiating (but sometimes returning a call) and they don’t answer so I leave (or not leave) a message. I then move on with my day: I hop in the shower, go to work, I start some laundry, go for a bike ride or I might have even placed the call before walking into a meeting of some sort (it’s not like I’m calling people at 4:59 on a business day).
I can’t tell you the number of times I get a call back within moments and, because I’m not there any more, I can’t take the call so I end up with a message that says “why aren’t you there?”. In most of these cases I have no reason to believe they’ll be calling me back in a few minutes, I have no idea why they didn’t take my call. In a few cases, I’ve even gotten a “I don’t like that you aren’t then when I call you right back!”. I’m not on a tether, I’ve committed no crime…
Isn’t the real question,
“Where were they when I called?”?
If I don’t know you’re calling me back soon, why would I be sitting by the phone? They weren’t sitting by the phone, right? I could be there for hours and still be unavailable when you finally call. Especially these days, many people have call waiting, if they needed to click over just to say “I’ll call you back in 5, unless it’s important”, or they could text back with out even interrupting their call (although I’d prefer “I’ll be done in an hour” compared to “what do you want?”). The other problem is when someone does answer when already on a call, they say they’ll call you back in 5 minutes (or an hour) and triple the time has past. How long do you wait before leaving or calling back? If you leave, are you in trouble because they said they would call?
I’m not a big fan of people clicking over for every incoming call, so if I’m expecting a call I’ll tell a person I’m talking to (at the start of the conversation), “I do need to take a very quick call from so-and-so” or “I’m on my way to meet someone, so if they call I need to take it for a minute”. Otherwise I generally ignore call waiting. Although, when doing a job search, I’m apt to take unknown callers when from area codes of where I’m applying.
Related sidebar: I’ve noticed times that when I don’t leave a message, I think I’m more likely to get a call back when I don’t leave one! But then it doesn’t mean they played the actual message (if I left one) that might have some useful info like “I’m running late, I’m hopping into the shower and I’ll be on my way”.