But clearly they are in a position to tell us how we hear our voice mail.

“We, being a university, are not in a position to force anyone to use a particular e-mail system,” Dannheim said.

That, of course, wouldn’t work here.

Most of the unified systems only work with a single e-mail system. At corporations, where the computers are owned by the company, it’s easy for these systems to work, since the tech guys can just demand that everyone use the e-mail programs.

Despite the estimated $1 million price tag a new system would carry, Dannheim said the major stumbling block would be political, not financial.

But at least for Yale that’s many years away.

The big plus for these systems is that since it’s more like e-mail than voice mail, you’d be able to choose which messages you want to hear first.

Dannheim said “unified messaging” will provide a single mailbox into which all your voice mail and e-mail would be sent. You would be able to read it all on a computer or listen to it — a computerized voice reading your e-mail — on the phone.

Both Carvill and Dannheim agreed that the next wave of voice mail systems will bring great things — particularly for those who are concerned that they talk to too many people and not enough computers.

(Actually, Jon Carvill of Mitel Networks, the vendor that sells Yale’s voice mail system, said the most current version of Mitel’s program does allow individual users to change the playback order. I couldn’t reach Dannheim again after I spoke with Carvill to reconcile this discrepancy.)

Gunther Dannheim, Yale’s telecommunications chief, said he can understand why some people might be bothered by the playback order, but there’s little to be done about it — for now. He says Yale uses the most current version of the voice mail program, but it cannot alter the playback order.

The playback order becomes a problem when a caller has left a message as a continuation of an earlier one. Since the listener hears the continuation first, he can become unnecessarily confused or disturbed.

Faced with the obvious limitations of a phone call, students and staff can become frustrated when the voice mail system plays back your messages, starting with the most recent message first.

Students are much more accustomed to e-mail than voice mail, and certainly check it with much greater regularity. And the way e-mail works tends to make a lot more sense: you see a list of message subjects and senders and then decide which ones you read.

But this column has often been about the minor nuisances; indeed, those are this column’s raison d’etre. So let’s tackle quite possibly the most minor of them all before the year is out: why does Yale’s voice mail system play your most recent message last — backward to most people’s way of thinking?

It’s really not that bad, right?