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Alfred M. Albers

Author & Magician

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The Answering Machine

by Al Albers


There are times when a writer stares at a blank computer screen … and it stares back.  Words, thoughts and ideas are quickly typed, but moments later are permanently deleted.


“That paragraph wasn’t very awe-inspiring,” a writer might say aloud, trying to pacify his rationale.


When writer’s block crosses my path, I step away from my computer, walk into the family room, turn on the television and look for a 24-hour news channel.  I’ve found that this momentary distraction helps me mentally sort out my thoughts.


Case in point.  Last week, instead of deleting an entire paragraph, I highlighted it.  It was still a bit rough around the edges; it just needed some editing.  But as I reread it over and over, all of my thoughts were arguing with each other.  After 15 minutes of editing, rewriting, editing and rewriting, I decided it was break time.  However, instead of heading for the family room, I decided to surf the Internet.


And that’s when I found it.


No, not the answer to the paragraph quandary; rather, a unique service.  Intrigued, I clicked the URL and seconds later I was staring at the homepage of the International Institute of Answering Machine Answers.


Now you may be thinking, “Surely, this is an April fool’s joke.”  But, it isn’t … Google the name.


Go ahead.


I’ll wait.




I thought so.


Technically, we don’t have answering machines … unless you have a vintage phone from the 1980s or earlier.  These days, as you know, phones have a built-in voice recorder.


As I sat back in my chair, I smiled.  What I found amusing is the thought of an employee going to his bank or credit union for the purpose of getting a loan.  Can you visualize the look on the loan officer’s face when she’s told, “My nine-to-five job requires that I listen to answering machine answers.”


Oh to be a fly on the wall!


There are a few sample messages on the web site, but here is one that I thought was funny.  “Would you say something; I can’t read minds.”


Now that I know about this organization, I’m seriously thinking of changing my really boring greeting.  “Blah, blah, blah; sorry I missed your call, but please leave a message and I’ll call you back shortly.  Blah, blah, blah.”


I told you it was boring.


How boring?


I’d rather watch grass grow.


After much contemplation, I came up with a new message.  I don’t know how well it’ll go over, but let me run it by you.


“I’m really NOT away from home.  I’m undergoing a technical refresh, which may render me a little delayed in returning your phone call for a few days.  Estimated time of return to normalcy will be mid-week.  But, hey, please leave a message.”


I like it.  I can only wonder what callers will say, or think for that matter.  But I bet they’ll leave a message.


Besides, you never know.  I may get a phone call from the International Institute of Answering Machine Answers … and I want to be ready. 


In case they ever decide to give an award for the most zany answering machine answer.