You know you’ve achieved middle-aged insignificance when reviewing the day’s collected voice mail qualifies as cheap entertainment. In this economy, what are our options?
First are the calls from my sister-in-law, who has a real name but to me is just “Kiddo”. I call her this even though she’s ancient compared to me. The nickname stemmed from the fact she’s roughly the height of your average coffee table. It stuck because her husband hates it.
Kiddo calls our home phone between one and four hundred times each day. I don’t answer most personal calls during the day, since to do so would provide me a handy excuse to say I’m exhausted from talking and then do anything but work. As a result, Kiddo’s call often ends up as a voice message.
“Hi, it’s Kiddo. I’m just calling to say hello. It’s nothing important. Call me when you can.”
This “unimportant” attempt to reach us is then followed by a call to my cell phone, a call to my wife’s cell phone, another call to our home phone and, on occasion, a second round of calls to all phones. If none of this works, our cell phones vibrate with a text-based variation on the voice message—“What r u doing pls call me.”
I suppose I shouldn’t be so cavalier about Kiddo’s calls—she is, after all, being ravaged by metastatic cancer and in near-constant pain. But answering the phone is painful to me, even if the calls are placed by the critically ill. By the time I get around to telling Patty that she needs to call back, Kiddo’s usually asleep, and the cycle begins anew the next morning.
My brother-in-law calls a few times each week. I call him a few times each week. He’s also not a phone person, and he’s not riddled with an incurable disease (that we’re aware of), so we wait until we both feel like talking at the same time before we ever connect. Hence, more than a dozen messages (“Call if you want”) translate into roughly three minutes of conversation each month. This is enough.
A friend in Canada loves to reach me when he’s drunk. As a non-phone-person, I don’t like talking even to the non-altered. He enjoys drinking as much as he enjoys having a phone, so he calls at least three times a month; I, in turn, return his calls once every three months. He doesn’t mind, because with few exceptions he doesn’t remember calling.
My Mom calls. If she doesn’t reach us, she says, “Oh, you’re out? I thought you had no money.”
Our favorite, though, is a close friend of ours. We will try to call her, and she rarely answers. She doesn’t answer her home phone; she doesn’t answer her cell phone. If she does answer, she usually says, "Let me call you right back," and then our phone sits silent for the rest of the night (unless Kiddo calls).
Our friend has her cell with her at all times—we’ve seen and heard it when she’s sitting in the room with us and it rings and she doesn’t answer. When we call, we’re not in the room with her, so we don’t hear her phone ring and ring before she doesn’t answer. We just know.
What makes the experience all the more joyous, especially for a non-phone-person, is getting a message that says, “Mailbox full” at the end of all the ringing you know is being ignored. Good times. So, when this close friend finally decides to call us, and doesn’t reach us because we’re out, she gets to leave this message:
“Hehhhh-looooo there, strangers. Are you even alive? Have you forgotten me? I guess you don’t want to talk to me, since you never call me anymore. If you ever feel like talking, and I guess you don’t, give me a cahhh-ulllll.”
When we come home and call back fifteen minutes later, the phone rings and rings.