Well, I guess you can't accuse me of overdoing it with posts these days. But it's quality not quantity, right? Or something like that. Here are two odes to the days before cell phones, when people had to use these things called answering machines. They kinda sucked, didn't they? One of these bits I wrote, one I only wish I did. The photos are from Erwin, Tennessee, where they once hung an elephant for murder. Only they botched the first attempt and had to try a second time. Hey, it ain't easy to build a gallows for a pachyderm.
ANSWERING MACHINE - I hadn’t spoken to her in two years; hadn’t seen her in more than that. But I found an old answering machine tape in a box of junk and put it in the player. I knew it was a bad idea, that I should just toss it in the trash with the outdated magazines and credit card receipts, but instead I pushed “PLAY” and sat on the floor to listen. It was toward the end of things and there were dozens of calls. Her dad. My mother. Calls where the concern was palpable underneath the usual greetings. Those who didn’t know left invitations for us both to come by. The others were already splitting into her friends and mine, some addressing her, some me. Some seemed unsure who to address. Toward the very end were calls from the landlord asking about moving dates and forwarding addresses. The last call was from me. I said only her name and then the tape ran out. I got up off the floor, took the tape out of the player and weighed it in my hand for a few moments. Then I broke it in half against the corner of the dining room table. A spool rolled across the floor, a tiny streamer of tape unfurling on the carpeting. It won’t matter. Some messages can never be erased.
ANSWERING MACHINE-The Replacements
Try and breathe some life into a letter; I’m losing hope, we’ll never be together; My courage is at its peak, do you know what I mean?; How do say you're O.K. to an answering machine?; How do you say good night to an answering machine?
Big town’s got its losers, small town’s got its vices; I’ve got a handful of friends, one needs a match and one needs some ice; Call away on the phone, another time zone; How do you say I miss you to an answering machine?; How do say good night to an answering machine?
”If you’d like to make a call, please hang up and dial again. If you need help, please dial your operator.”
I get enough of that.
Try to free a slave of ignorance; Try and teach a whore about romance.
How do you say I miss you to an answering machine?; How do you say good night to an answering machine?; How do you say I'm lonely to an answering machine?; The message is very plain; Oh, I hate your answering machine; I hate your answering machine;
I hate your answering machine.