Thursday, March 10, 2011

Leave a Message at the Tone

Remember answering machines?

I loved them.

Sure, they came into my life at a time when I was living by myself and working and dating and - well - let's just say it was easier to run out for milk or pop in on the neighbors or - you know - bathe - when I knew that none of those things would actually cause me to miss a call. But it was more than that. There was an art to filling that time between "You have reached...." and "beeeeeeep". It was a very specific amount of seconds and the timing needed to be just right.

Some people got it right once and left it that way forever. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

I was not one of those people.

sidenote: My parents were - and for the longest time, their message ended with my dad making a looooooong snorting sound. It sounded like he was doing a huge line of blow, which - in case you do not know my dad - he most assuredly was not. I didn't tell him for a long time, though, because I'm simple and it amused the hell out of me. When I did tell him, I refrained from eluding to illicit drug use and just told them there was a long snort. "Oh, Tut! How could you do that? You sound ridiculous! Here! Let me..."


I wasn't one to come up with clever things to actually say - although I was acquainted with a few people who did and I loved listening to their messages. No, to the surprise of - I'm sure - no one, mine all used music. I had a girlfriend who said she'd decide if she'd leave a message for me or not based on the music on my answering machine. J. Geils Band, Love Stinks? No message. Katrina and the Waves, Walking on Sunshine? Message and a callback number if she wasn't home. I changed my messages as my moods changed (which was - if you haven't caught on yet, or if you're new here - a lot).

I lived in an attic efficiency apartment at the time. (Go ahead and process that. Attic. Efficiency. I remember swearing that if one more person told me my place was 'cute'.....) In the summer, it was hot. Like - ridiculously hot. I had a room air conditioner in my only window, but - although it was very small as far as apartments go, it was pretty large as far as rooms go. Plus, I believe I may have mentioned that it was in the attic. I tried really hard not to be home much that summer. Folks who left messages on my answering machine were treated to Spinal Tap, Living in a Hell Hole. Every message my mom left for me that summer - without fail - began with, "Tammy, I don't like that." Surprisingly, this was not a huge deterrent.

Once - same apartment, different season - I spent more time than I want to admit getting the timing just right so that Aerosmith's F.I.N.E. would end exactly with "Joe Perry says I'm alright..." just before the tone.

Yes, I led a full, rich life.

The first time I called Tom and he wasn't home, I heard, "I can't answer the phone right now, because I'm busy watching G.I. Joe" followed by a perfectly timed, "GO JOE!" from the TV right before the beep. Was there a chance in hell I wasn't going to marry this man? Conversely, the potential beau whose answering machine message was backed by the smooth stylings of a Kenny G. soundtrack never stood a chance. And the one whose answering machine message had the music from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure - you know - when they briefly went into the future? - I was all ready to like him until I found out that his sister had actually made the message for him and then I felt sort of deceived and like I could never really trust him.

I was thinking (no! come back!) - the Facebook profile picture has become a lot like the answering machine message. Some people hide their faces with logos or cartoons or - whatever. I liken them to the folks who would buy canned answering machine messages. Then there are the folks who haven't changed their profile picture in three years. They're the, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" lot. There are the people who use pictures of their kids or their pets. Oh boy, the answering machine world had that, too. People thought it would be cute to have their toddlers voices on their answering machines, but usually it was just unintelligible and frustrating (speaking as someone who did not yet have kids in the hey days of the answering machine).

side note: I've never written out 'hey day' before and was unsure as to whether it was actually hey day or hay day. A quick (and in no way inclusive) Google search informs me that either is acceptable and that there is etymology to support both. Now you've learned something new today. Go back to bed.

And then there are the people like me - who change their pictures often - usually in direct correlation with a mood shift.

My current picture is smiling - no, laughing. That is not exactly an accurate depiction of my current state. But I think I'm gonna keep it up. Fake it till you make it. I'm walking on sunshine - hey-yeah - and don't it feel good?


Anonymous said...

Fake it to you make it - that's one of my main mottos.

I'm a picture of my kid and me kind of facebook girl. I feel self-conscious putting just my photo up - I don't really know why.

Have a good day.

Rosa said...

Hmmm, not sure where I fall in this one. In the middle somewhere. I changed the music on my answering machine on a pretty regular basis (remember The Who? Whooooo are you? Whoo, oo, oo, oo--oh who the fck are you--Beeeeep!). But my fb picture is an Italian flag and will probably remain so for quite some time as I am loathe to put a picture of myself on the internet for all the world to see. ("Wow, look at her. Haven't seen her in ages. She got OLD!") I'm pretty sure I know what this says about me and it's nothing good.

Gibby said...

Sigh...I love your writing, Tammy.

This post makes me chuckle. We had so many funny messages when I lived off-campus at OU. I remember one we created after, well, after having a few libations, if you will. We didn't know it was still recording, thus the result was colorful, to say the least. It was one of our faves. Not so much for the parental units.

And your correlation of this to the FB profiles...genius. You are so spot on with that. I love looking at profile pics, looking at what that person picked to represent them at the present time. I may have to go change mine now...

singedwingangel said...

I am not a huge answering machine message maker.. I think I sound goofy.. but I do change my Fb pic all the time. I have had it as everything..

Eva Gallant said...

Now I feel wierd because I haven't changed my facebook photo in ages.

Cheryl said...

It's okay to lie on facebook. Everyone does.

Anonymous said...

I admit to being one of the few remaining on the planet with an old fashioned answering machine for our home number. We hardly ever use it and, yes, it is our kids from a few years ago saying "leave us a message" - although it is very articulate. :) My FB pic is currently of The Police (long story involving love Sting since the age of 12 and a recovered Synchronicity album - vinyl!) but I do change it frequently depending on my mood.

I hadn't ever equated the two together but FB profile pic and status update is the this generation's "outgoing message."

Great observation! Thanks!

gayle said...

I still have my answering machine and people still do leave me messages. You are so right about facebook and answering machines. Loved this!

Anonymous said...

See, I knew I loved you! I once spent about 2 hours perfecting the perfect answering machine message with music and miscellaneous sound bites from the computer. :)