Thursday, January 26, 2006

Leave a Message at the Beep

My answering machine is very dull. It currently says, in a computery voice, "After tone - record message." This confuses a lot of people because they don't know whom they're calling, but very few people we actually like call our landline -- 90% of the calls are solicitors, wrong numbers, or the dentist reminding us of tomorrow's appointment. Besides, the best way for me to guarantee a power outage is to record an actual outgoing message on the machine. It's a digital one, and when the power goes out the battery back-up saves the MESSAGES but because the machine has wires crossed somewhere deep in its guts, it never, ever saves the outgoing message. If I record a new one, the power will go out within four hours, and continue to go out every single time I try to re-record it. Eventually I just gave up, and the people of Peoria were thankful for the sudden increase in electricity delivery reliability. I'm only doing my part.

In college I loved to put bizarre messages on my machine. I had a friend with a really deep, pimp-type voice record one that said, "You've reached the phone of Eyebrows. She's .... tied up right now, so leave a message at the tone." My mother absolutely hated that one. For a while I had one that said, "Hi! You've reached Eyebrows. I'm actually home, but I'm screening my calls to avoid someone I don't like. Leave a message and if I don't call you back, it was you!" My mother hated that one too, particularly when it took me several hours to get back to her.

Everybody hated our infamous "Dancing Queen" message. My sophomore-year roommate dated a fellow who loved to dance but was really, really bad at it. (I do not say this to be mean; we're both still friends with him and he's a sweet guy. He just could not dance. Spectacularly, epicly could not dance.) Our floor nicknamed her "the Dancing Queen" because he was always flinging her around the floor like a ragdoll while she frantically look for an escape. In retaliation, she nicknamed me "Twinkletoes" and started putting it on everything I owned, like on my film when she dropped it off for me at the developer, or into the heading of my papers when I'd go to the bathroom and leave the document open.

After a while we got bored of these games, and instead recorded an outgoing message with ABBA's "Dancing Queen" in the background. It said something along the lines of, "You've reached the phone of the Dancing Queen and Twinkletoes. We're out dancing the night away, but leave a message and we'll call you back. Thanks - and have a groovy day." I didn't really know there were people who didn't like ABBA -- I know most people are ashamed to admit they like ABBA, but I didn't know there was actual hate. But by recording that message we tapped into an unexpected vein of ABBA-hatred. Everyone who left a message complained about the song in the background. Even our NUN left us a message saying, "God, I hate that song." (Thankfully, God did not see fit to strike our phone with lightning despite our nun's plaintive request.)

So we changed that message to one that said, "Hi, you've reached the room of Eyebrows and Roommate. This is the fridge. The answering machine eloped with the toaster, but if you talk realllllly slow, I'll write down your name and number and stick it to myself with one of these nifty magnets." I thought that was absolutely hilarious, but suddenly we started getting all these calls where people would talk ... really ... slowly. "Hiiiii, Eyyyyyyebrrrrrrrowsssss, thissssss isssss Joooooooesefffffffff ...." For the life of me I couldn't figure out what was going on, because, having recorded the message, I instantly forgot about it, and we had this absolute EPIDEMIC of slow-talkers calling and talking in bad fake slo-mo. It was maddening. It went on for a month. It wasn't until I tried to call my roommate one evening and got the voicemail message that the light dawned and I changed the message to something that didn't instruct everyone to talk slowly.

In retrospect, it's alarming how many people will obey ridiculous instructions as long as they're on an answering machine. It almost makes me want to start a whole new reign of machine-message evil, maybe even use it to further my plot to take over the world.

But no; my neighbors would be annoyed if the power started going out every four hours.

1 comment:

Labrys6 said...

Oh, mercy! We also have a boring phone message,now it wants to make me do something horrible. "Sorry, if the moon is full, we don't answer the phone--the Minotaur's horns SO rip up the finish on the phone table" or some such nonsense. But nobody would get it. I do like Abba and don't mind admitting it, but for whatever reason I do not like "Dancing Queen" much. For fear of putting out the electricity here, I will be good and boring. I promise! It is rewarding to know that it happens that way to someone else, somewhere else---I thought maybe God was using lightening, even w/o a nun asking.