I don't have to imagine this, because I am living in a new world where there don't appear to be any answering machines. Not on my pay-as-you-go cell phone (cell phone plans are apparently "complicated" to get) and not on my work phone. Not on anyone else's work phone either.
Do not ask me how the full-time reporters deal with this. I wrote a story last week, and scheduled times via e-mail where I would call the people I interviewed for it. If I had to do this all the time, I would be very cranky for awhile and then I suppose I would get used to it.
The HSBC rep who set up my account (and three new credit cards, just to see which one I "like best") also does not have voice mail on his phone plan. Nor does the travel agency I called last week. Or the gym I am trying to get into.
All this leads me to my point. No one under the age of 30 in North America much bothers leaving messages anymore, at least not for their friends and anyone else who is familiar with their number. But if you do get a strange call in North America, and they don't leave a message, and you call the number, you are some sort of weirdo.
Not in Abu Dhabi. Not by a longshot.