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Answering Machine Hell

 article about Answering Machine Hell
A how-to guide for leaving a spectacular message on someone's answering machine…or at least not getting slapped with a restraining order as the result of it.


Let's face it, when we hear that beep sometimes we're not ready with what we want to say. That's where this guide comes in. I recently had a woman who shall remain nameless write in with a transcript of how her last message went which she sent to an ex-boyfriend. Here it is in all its awfulness:

Hey, Jeff. I thought you would be there. Well, are you there? Pickup if you're screening? I guess you're not there, or maybe you're just screening because you broke up with me and you think I'm some kind of stalker. I mean I'm not a stalker. Why did I just say that? How the hell do you delete a message? Shit! Jeff, I mean, it's okay. I get why we broke up…I just - *beep*!

I'm pretty sure it was only going to get worse if the machine hadn't cut her off. Maybe that's what why it cuts you off – just so you can only embarrass yourself for so many seconds. Kari Sampson, damn it! I said I wouldn't use her name…I mean the woman who shall remain nameless is not actually as much of a lunatic as she sounded on her message. She just has what I like to call "Phone Machine Message Nervisidosis". Of course I am not a medical doctor in the traditional sense (or any ‘wanting the patient to live' kind of sense) but I do enjoy making up names for nonexistent disorders. Again Kari (Damn it!) is a normal woman who just got a little too nervous when she had to leave an unexpected message. Take Kari (Seriously, Damn it!) as a ‘what not to do' example. I'd like to first go through some talking points about what to focus on when faced with leaving a message, and what to learn from Kari. (Holy shit!):

1) Stay focused on the who, what, where of what you need to say.
Ex: Hey Collin, think you can date my sister? You and me 2:00 pm at the Arby's parking lot. Get ready to eat pavement. It's at 2:00 because that's when I have my lunch break. If you need to change the time I'm flexible.

*Notice how I was open to his possible need to change the time for our street fight. It's important to be flexible to their requirements.

2) Try to stay away from words like: needy, desperate, crazy, obsessed, and hunger after when you're leaving a message.

3) Also try to avoid ultimatums just as a rule because you might change your mind later and want to erase them. But you can't.

Ex: "Roger! It's either your mother or me, okay? You spend way too much time with her. She has emphysema, Alzheimer's, and she has no arms? Big deal! Just last week I got a zit, and it still hasn't gone away. We all have our problems, Roger! I look forward to your call."

*Now, I'm sure you can figure out what went wrong here. This bitch obviously lives on Screwed Up Lane in the heart of Crazytown. This is just one example of why ultimatums are a bad idea.

4) Try to keep the message shorter than a dissertation on Tolstoy or a Tolstoy novel for that matter. (I stopped caring what happened to Anna Karenina after page 400. At that point I would have been happy to see her kill herself.)

5) Never – Ever – I stress EVER have any kind of cat, dog, or other kind of pet say hello on your message. You will regret it, and it will haunt you forever. This is a complete non-negotiable. If you are unwilling to budge on this, you might as well just stop reading now and go leave a message on your crush's machine singing Aerosmith's Don't want to miss a thing, and then when you're done say "Also I love you". My point is that by this time you are hopeless. Oh and don't forget before hanging up to have Whiskers say hello to him. (I shudder as I write this.)

6) Don't leave a message where you act sweetly silly about how you don't know what to say on the message, trying to turn it into a cute joke. You know what I'm talking about:

Hey, It's me. So…I got your message machine. Wow. (giggle) I guess I just called to say hey, but I guess you're not here. (giggle) Well, that was kind of obvious. Of course you're not here or you would answer…unless you're screening. (giggle) You're not screening, are you? (giggle a lot) Just kidding! I'm just being silly. But really I just called cause I'm bored. Okay, well I guess I should go before I take up more of your time. Talk to you later! Bye.

Don't do it people. The listener will be physically ill and they will never call you again.

7) Don't decide halfway through a message that you no longer want to leave one:
Hey Sarah. I got your machine. Well anyway, I just was wondering if..um…you'd like to go out on Faturday…I mean Saturday…I didn't mean to say Faturday. I'm not saying you're fat. Of course you're not fat. I think you are hot. But I don't mean to sound like a pervert. I – (*click*)

This is just a bad idea. You end up sounding like you forgot to take your medicine. This is what I like to call a "Relocation Situation" (the rhyming with inadvertent, but you have to admit it's catchy.) This will involve you packing up your working possessions and moving to Uzbekistan.

I hope these suggestions have been of some help to you and I wish you a very healthy answering message future. If you still need some help, here is a script to follow the next time you have to leave a message:

Hello (Insert the person's name. For example: Mother, Father, Amy, James, CIA contact: "Undercover Girl", you Fucking Bastard.) This is (insert your name, or if you are stalking this person use your false name.) I just wanted to call to say (explain the reason you're calling: To discuss who gets custody of the cat, whether or not they saw the "actor" ‘Assy Cheeks' on the "Gay Porn Awards", the diplomacy between our two great countries, etc.) You can call me at (your phone # or a fake one if you decided halfway through the message that you never want them calling you back.) Okay, goodbye. (Don't be cute at the end here. Just say goodbye. Don't be funny or affable. Leaving a message on someone's machine is like a military operation. You need to get in and get out. You don't want to wait around to get shot by the enemy.)

And this is all you need to know to leave a sharp and non-embarrassing message. Now let's get out there and not make asses of ourselves!


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