Answering machine opens the line, leaving a whole new realm of questions


I knew it, I knew it, I knew somehow this would happen. The backlash of the Great Answering Machine Consumer Frenzy: The wrong number.

Sure, I have to admit that our answering machine comes in handy with a big family and an aging generation of friends. We get many calls relating to gall bladder symptoms, hip replacement procedures and triple bypasses.

And they're great when the kids want me to baby-sit or Aunt Sudie wants to discuss a new laxative or a telemarketing person is trying to sell me a cemetery lot -- I can answer immediately or never.

But sometimes I wonder if this high-tech toy really is a beneficial addition to our lives. Or does it just cause more problems?

You see, my first "misdirected" call on my machine left me wondering who, what, where, when and what to do.

No, it wasn't an obscene call. My machine recorded a male voice saying: "Hi, do you want to meet me at the Hyatt lobby? I can be there at 5, OK? Important to bring the black bag and the file. Call me if this is OK."

Well, what the heck, it was exciting. Of course, it was NOT for me. I did not recognize the voice and my husband and only lover was sitting beside me when I played the call back on my machine.

He did not leave his number.

Now, what should I have done? Was it an assignation, a love meeting, or an undercover operation? Whose black bag and what secret file?

Or, was he calling his wife, asking her to meet him for drinks so they could go over their income tax?

He had a nice voice, kind of sexy. I even thought about going to the Hyatt at 5 and checking out the lobby. I like the Hyatt lobby. I did call the Hyatt, but when I tried to explain my message and the snafu, the front desk hung up on me.

I worried a bit.

Then I thought, it's not my concern.

I didn't hear from him again; I let it go. It's his loss, and besides, he couldn't be a very good lover or secret agent, because he couldn't dial correctly. That says something about a man.

Still, intrigued, I asked around and I found that lots of friends have received weird calls on their machines.

Here are a few examples of misguided messages:

Sitting in her law office, a young friend of mine got this message on her answering machine: "Can't wait. Wear that blue silk dress, and I have to change the time to midnight. I will be at the USAir ticket counter."

My friend got revved up thinking about the fun, but WHAT city she wondered were they going to meet in, and was it worth going out to the airport to gawk at the guy who got stood up?

Then a neighbor told me this week he'd just received this on his answering machine: "Listen, Sonny, I love you. I'm sorry I said those things, (weep) and just remember I'm your only mother, and please forgive me, I beg you, call me back, OK?"

But Mom did not leave her number. My friend was shaken up, because his mother and he don't get along too well.

He called me to ask if I knew anyone who had just broken up with their mother in our area.

But the problem is not our answering machines. The problem is our own "hurried sickness." We are too stressed to dial correctly or listen. Sometimes we leave messages and forget who WE are.

You can hook up your machine to caller ID if you are really curious.

Well, I dunno, I think it's kind of fun to get mystery messages.

It lets your imagination run wild, real wild.

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