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Answering Machines -- The End of an Era... and My Fun

I called my friend Mandy today and got her answering machine. She works at home, so when someone calls she usually lets it go to the machine.

It occurred to me that she is perhaps the only person that I can leave a message, and likely be assured she's listening to me at that moment.

It used to be that everybody screened calls. You'd let the machine pick up, find out who it was, and as they were leaving a message decided whether or not to pick up. Sure, you'd say "Sorry, I was just in the bathroom... I was just cooking bacon... the TV was too loud" as an excuse, but we always knew you were screening calls. It was okay; we do it too.

I loved answering machines. I love leaving crazy messages for those close friends whom recognize me by voice. In my mind they were always listening to me from the shower, from the kitchen, or while they were having intimate relations with a significant, or perhaps insignificant, other.

Here are some of my personal favorites. Yes, I've actually used every one of these.
  • To a female... "Pick up... I know you're there... if you don't let me see my children your support payments stop today!"
  • To a male... "Listen, I know we've been friends for a while. Then, when Trevor, from your office, told me you play for our team, it made my day. I've just always been very attracted to you. The way you push the hair out of your eyes... and those jeans you wore on Wednesday... wait, I hope Trevor didn't mean the company softball team, um... shit ."
  • To someone on a first date... "This is Dr. Bartholomew at the Midtown clinic. I'm calling with the results of the STD tests. You should probably call me back in the office. We need to talk."  If I don't have sex on a first date, nobody does!
  • To a married friend... "Congratulations! This is Peter from the Trojan Condom Frequent Flyer Program. I'm calling to tell you that you've won the grand prize in our sweepstakes, the Caribbean Singles Cruise. Thanks for sending in your entry card in last month's issue of Jugs magazine."
  • To my mom... "Hi Mom. I just found this weird little bump on my neck. I thought you might know what it is. Oh well, no big deal. It's probably nothing. Anyhow, I'm going out of town for a few weeks... talk to you soon. Love you."
  • To my dad... "(muffled as if I'm holding the phone to my chest)... I got the machine... no... no, I'm not asking him for money on his machine! (In a crisp clear voice.) Hi, Dad. It's been a while since I called, and I was just thinking about you, remembering all the great times we had camping and fishing. Well, give me a call back when you have a chance. Maybe you could call before the first of the month. I love you, Dad."
  • To the parent of a teenager... "This is Officer Rodriguez down here the Second Precinct. Your son/daughter, (insert child's name most likely to be in trouble), came up during an investigation. Don't worry, they are just a person of interest. Stop down to the precinct with your child. We just need to talk to them for a few minutes. Feel free to bring your attorney. (Child's name) may want to bring a tooth brush."
  • To someone obsessed with their luxury car... "This is Bob from Geico. I'm just following up regarding the little fender bender with your blue BMW Z4. Wow, that's a nice car, well, it WAS a nice car. Anyhow, no need to call us back, the other drivers insurance coverage has lapsed."

Lastly, sometimes I would just leave the message saying nothing more than "BOOM-CHICK-A-WOW-WOW" shouting at the top of my lungs. By the way, this is the message I left Mandy on her machine today!

Well, since people no longer screen calls with answering machines, and voicemail doesn't have the same effect, most of my fun has ended. Fortunately, I still know a few people who use live answering services. :-)


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