To Have or Not To Have: Answering Machine

I’ve had an answering machine since I was a teen. Mom resisted, but then she and a client played telephone tag for three days to get a yes/no answer to a simple question, and she broke down and got one. So, except for when I was a poor, unsociable student, I’ve had one.

We still jump up and get the phone if we can. I keep saying myself and the family, “It’s probably a telemarketer, let the machine get it,” but instead we drop everything and race. So it doesn’t do much good when we’re home.

Then we have vacation. Twice this summer we’ve been away for a week, and each time the machine has caused more stress than it saved.

The first week, there was a message from a boy my son’s age with a phone number and no name. Son had given out cards to friends at school with his phone number and name. The phone number reached a family with no kid. So there’s a lonely classmate out there who thinks my son doesn’t want to bother with him, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

The second time, husband and I listened together. Five minutes after a long drive — I still wonder why the messages couldn’t have sat another hour. Message 2 was the library about a book that came in for son. As the machine was saying time and date, husband asked, “Can I delete it?” I hesitated. I don’t normally delete them until listening to all of them. I couldn’t remember why I keep them. I said yes. Husband pressed delete. We heard, “Message 3, deleted.” So now I know that someone left a message, and we don’t know who. Was it the ballet school, finally getting back to us about canceling our September spot (daughter changed to swimming, which we think is more important, if they don’t fight about it). Was it a storytelling contact? Was it website client?

3/4 of the calls are from telemarketers. If that’s the case, we’ll never, ever know who it was.

If we didn’t have a machine, the caller would know we didn’t get the message and call back. As it is, they think we got it and have chosen not to respond, or are too disorganized.

Maybe next vacation I’ll just turn the thing off.



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