Phone Messages

Everyone has had to suffer through someone else’s phone answering machine message, but people who call me when I’m out have to go through so much more.

Perhaps the best example of this came about thanks to an old Doro answering machine. Not only did it have great sound quality, but it used endless-loop tapes. I bought the longest ones I could find, and altered them by adding extra shut-off triggers every 20 to 30 seconds. This allowed me to put multiple messages on each tape, so the outgoing message would change each time someone would call.

People would often call back more than once — although usually they were trying to replay the message they’d just heard. After getting a different message a couple of times in a row, they’d give up. I had two tapes set up this way, one with eleven messages, and one with nine.

One day, Vic Dunlop was trying to reach me about a project we were working on. Now, Vic was no slouch in the funny department, but he was laughing so hard after hearing the first message that he couldn’t leave me his message. So, he collected himself, thought of exactly the right thing to say, and called back …

… and got a different message. Undaunted, he thought up a new response, and called back again. And again. And again. He eventually went through all eleven of the messages I had on that tape. By sheer luck, I returned home in time to find what had happened, and switched to the second tape. Sure enough, Vic later called back nine more times before admitting defeat. If he’d called back one more time, he would finally have heard the same message twice.