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.
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.
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.