The cruel truth about answering machine

To dispel any notions that I am some sort of political junkie, this column will contain no quote, allusion or opinion regarding politics whatsoever. Instead, this week I’ve decided to talk … answering machines. For Christmas I received one and now I have discovered that there are some little-talked-about rituals and insights which come along with owning an answering machine.

Ritual #1 (The Message): This message will greet friends, loved ones and strangers and break to them the fact that you are not home. It will not only reflect your person and make a statement about who you are, it can also reflect your current state of mind or attitude. For example, I will give you a message and you try and guess who left it.

“Hello, I am not able to receive your call right now but if you leave your name, number, a brief estimate of your next years income and a list of financial holdings, I will get back to you as soon as possible. Beep.” That’s right—business major. Let’s try again.

“Hello, sorry I am not around, but I don’t know when I will be back and I’m not sure when I will be able to return your call so if you could just be patient, and keep trying to find me I will be happy to speak to you when I can.” That’s right again—anyone who you need to speak to right away!

“Hi, I’m not home right now which means I’m probably studying at the library (please send money), at a lecture on how to better appreciate my parents (I’m really broke), or donating my time to a worthy cause (twenty dollars). Please leave your name (or send a check) and I’ll get back to you soon.” Correct once again—freshman. Try one last one just for fun.

“You’ve reached the DeKalb’s house of LUV. I’m not here right now but I do have some beer chilling and can’t wait to see you in person so if you leave your name, number and a brief description of your body, I’ll be getting to you soon.” You’re all too good at this—Someone who spends way too much time at the Paperback Grotto.

Ritual #2 (Coming Home): This is the practice of going directly to your machine (do not pass GO, do not collect $200) in ardent hope that there will be a flashing light, signaling your many waiting messages. If you are one of the people who own an answering machine you know that you do this. If you do not own one and plan to get one, do not fool yourself, it will become an addiction.

Insight #1 (The Flashing Light): In the short time I have had this modern machine, I have discovered how easily one’s day can be ruined when after a long day of being gone one comes home to find out that during all that time not one of your caring friends or loved ones have called. Not having messages almost becomes some sort of personal reflection, no one needs you. Of course, it just proves that your friends and family have maybe figured out your schedule.

Insight #2 (The Kicker): Following the initial insight, I found that this second one hits pretty fast. As you stand there staring at your machine and cursing it for not having a flashing light the thought finally hits you and you realize … that all of those people who used to complain that you were never home—Never Really Called! It’s a kicker and it hurts, but don’t be salty—it happens to everyone! (Even if they don’t admit it.)