Wednesday, December 4, 2013

I miss our answering machine...

Answering machines were the bomb. For you youngsters out there, it was an annoyingly large box that held a tape. When you weren’t home, the answering machine was your voicemail, and buddy, if you got home and had one…no, two….no, THREE blinking lights, you were the coolest kid ever…if just for a moment. 

Looking back on it, you never wanted to get three blinks. One was awesome…it meant that either one of your friends or your grandma called. Two blinks could go either way…it could be your friend and your grandma leaving you messages, or it could be your dentist’s office and the principal. But y’all…don’t ever pray for three blinks.

Wow, three blinks. Three blinks meant you'd better starting worrying yesterday. It sounds so innocent, but it was horrible. Someone had an accident. Someone died. Your principal called….and then you got caught doing something else so he had to call again!

Besides getting to count the blinks when you got home, you had the pleasure of recording your outgoing message. It was like voicemail, but so much cooler because there was a cassette involved. Nonetheless, there were so many different things to consider when planning your message.

Audience- While granny and paw-graw might like hearing where you’re gone, what time you’ll get back, and what kind of gas mileage you got in town, principal’s don’t care, y’all. Back then, if you got in trouble, you didn’t go through a 12-step intervention to ensure that your adolescent needs were being met without causing undue embarrassment. You got your butt busted, and the principal made you call your momma from the office!  So, for your principals, doctors, dentists and other professionals, the Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) approach worked best. “Hi, you’ve reached the Clemhoppers. We ain’t home, so leave us a message and we’ll call you back. Bless your heart.”
Now, if you were a teenage girl and lucky enough to have your own line, your message had to be spot on you risked being ostracized. But it was a fine line because you didn’t want anybody to know you’d practiced it. The proper answering machine message had to be practiced for at least a semester before going live with it…on a tape. The final version usually went a lot like this:
“Hi, um, you’ve reached Jessi-CAH. *giggle* Oh my gosh, I totally can’t do this. So, um, yeah, this is Jessi-CAH, and I am—like—so totally sorry I’m not here to take your call. You’re probably gonna, like, hate me forever, and I like totally understand. I’m probably like hanging out at the mall, or shopping with my frands, or oh my gosh, going to the New Kids concert tonight. *squeal* Aw, I really wish you could go….ah, Mrs. Joey Mac…BEEP”… By the time you listened to the rambling greeting, you’d completely forgotten why you called.

Family Style- When it comes to answering machine styles, some families are the Von Traps, and some families are more like the Connors. My friend’s family was of the Von Trap variety. Apparently, they had visions of families crowding around the handset to listen to their recorded greeting like it was “Ellery Queen” on the refrigerator-sized radio.  They would tell everything from which House of Royalty they descended from to when you could drop by to see them performing water ballet in their pool. These ‘State of the Union’ recorders were your uppity people, who thought the world would stop were their noble plans not bestowed upon the commoners.

Other people knew how to work the machine, and I think this clip from Seinfeld sums it up better than I ever could.

Now, my family? We are 100% Connor…Dan and Roseanne…Connor. It used to be the “Hey, you’ve reached the Snodgrass’s, don’t say nothin’, and if I can guess who you are, I might call you back.” When I was little, our phone number was one digit off from the local plumber, and one digit off from the local video store. Their wrong numbers are the only times we ever had three blinking lights. But, it seemed to get daddy’s goat that people would leave a message at the wrong number. At that point, he changed our message to “We ain’t a plumber, and we ain’t a video store. If you’re tryin’ to get a-hold of one of them, hang up and get somebody else to dial for ya.”  That was daddy’s kind way of calling the repeat offenders dumb asses and blessing their hearts.

One year, we got home from vacation and had a proverbial string of blinking lights, and there were some doozies!

“Hey. If y’all wanna come over, the biscuits are in the microwave.”

“Well, I guess y’all must’a done eat. You can still come see me, ya know?”

“Uh, yeah, I’d like to reserve Kindergarten Cop, Smokey and the Bandit, and Jem and the Holligrams for tomorrow night. Name’s Bob. Honey, is that all I need to say?”

“Yes, this is Betty Richardson, and my neighbor, Cheryl, said you’s good. Apparently, my granddaughter flushed her gerbil down our toilet last night, and I reckon I need some help gettin’ him out, bless his heart. I’d shore appreciate it if you could come over and get him out so’s we can give him a good, Christian burial. Tell ya momma’n’em I said hey.”

And we thought the fun ended with the ride home from vacation! Have a blessed day y'all...bless your heart. 


  1. Remember the long one on there about a mule. We didn't have a mule.

  2. Ha ha ha (notice, I didn't say LOL)! I so like remember our answering machine. . . thanks for the trip down memory lane!

    1. I know, like, they were totally awesome! Thanks for stopping by. =)