7. Answer the Phone

7. Answer the Phone

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Matters


Answer the Phone

An amazing invention—but who would ever want to use one?

~Rutherford B. Hayes

In this day and age, it’s hard to believe a person doesn’t own an answering machine; my mother is that person. She has never really grasped the concept of the answering machine. When she calls and leaves a message, it goes as follows: “Hello, anybody there? (This is followed by a short pause.) Hello! It’s me (which is followed by a second short pause). Anybody? Alright! Don’t pick up the phone! Well, if you’re really not there, give me a call when you get in. Remember, I can always change my will.”

To my mother, leaving a message is equivalent to a game of hide-and-seek when the kid looking chants, “Come out, come out, wherever you are.” She’s under the impression we’re all hiding from her, and she’s got to smoke us out.

Sometimes, her messages are longer than our conversations. The following is an example of a typical conversation with my mother.

Mother: “Hi. How are you?”

Me: “I’m fine.”

Mother: “Still breathing?”

Me: “Yes, still breathing.”

Mother: “Good, then you have nothing to complain about.”

Me: “No, I can’t complain.”

Mother: “How’s the family?”

Me: “Everybody’s fine.”

Mother: “Good. So, nobody can complain, can they? Good talking to you. Talk to you soon. Oh, one thing before I go. You may want to get that damn answering machine of yours fixed. The last time I called and started talking, nobody picked up. Find out what the problem is.”

Me: “I’ll look into it.”

Should my mother have company, our two-minute conversation will be cut down to one as I’ll be resigned to chat with whoever’s visiting at the time.

Mother: “Your aunt’s here. Want to talk to her? Of course, you do. Hold on. She answers her phone when I call, unlike some people.”

Just as I’m about to say, “Had I really wanted to talk to so-and-so I would call them,” my aunt gets on the line.

Aunt Ann: “Hello, Cindy, how are you?”

Me: “I’m fine.”

Aunt Ann: “Still breathing?” (She’s my mother’s sister.)

Me: “Yes, I’m still breathing.”

Aunt Ann: “Good, then you can’t com… hold on a second, Cindy, your mother’s yelling at me. Oh, your mother says I have to hang up now as this is the second time she’s called today. The first time she got the machine, and nobody picked up. Oh, Cindy, that’s not good. You really should find out what the problem is and get it fixed.”

Me: “I’ll look into it. Bye.”

As I bang my head against the wall, I think—one phone call—double the aggravation.

~Cindy D’Ambroso-Argiento

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