2011.02.02 Ben, Rosie and Maddie don't live here anymore

Written by David Green.

By COLLEEN LEDDY

For years, as one, then another, and another, of our children left home, people had been giving us grief about our home answering machine message. Rosie recorded it when she was in high school.

“You have reached 517/458-7642. David, Colleen, Ben, Rosie, and Maddie can't come to the phone right now. Please leave a message.”

It probably seemed short and sweet and full of the facts to Rosie, but everyone else found it unbearably long—and, as time went by, woefully inaccurate.

“Yeah, Ben, Rosie, and Maddie can’t come to the phone because they don’t even live there! They live all over the world!” said our friend Brad several years ago. His message was left on the machine to remind us to change the darn thing. 

As was my friend Adrienne’s, “Hey, David, Colleen, Maddie, Sam, Joe, Ben, Rosie, Arnold, Ethel, and the rest of the crew! Are you in New York?” she asked in a message left several years ago, hoping to catch us before we left Morenci for the big city.

But, David and I were never compelled to take the time to read the manual to figure out how to change the message. Every time Rosie came home I’d suggest she ought to record a shorter message. She never did, and suggested that we ought to do it ourselves.

Finally, this Christmas vacation, Maddie pressed the relevant buttons, and David recorded his voice—from half-way across the room. 

“We’re not home!” he yelled loudly so the machine would pick up his voice. And then again, “We’re not home!”

I heard the message when I called from the library and David wasn’t home. It sounded like something terrible had happened to someone just as they picked up the phone. It didn’t sound like someone yelling “We’re not home!” from across the room so his voice could be heard on the recording. It sounded like someone screaming and moaning.

It even scared Maddie when she called and the machine picked up.

“It’s creepy,” she said and advised us to change it.

After years of hearing Rosie’s sweet voice, others were reluctant to leave a message at all, thinking they had reached the wrong number.

You could hear the hesitation, not just in their voices, but in their messages: “If this is Colleen, this is the message...”

David’s own mother couldn’t tell it was him. She called, and because the machine picked up before Ben got to the phone, their conversation was recorded. 

On the recording, Jackie asks, “Who did the yelling?” and Ben answers, “That’s my dad’s new message.” 

I was pleased to hear he didn’t say, “my parents’ new message.” I didn’t really want to be associated with it.

My sister Linda left a message that starts with laughter before proceeding with, “I hope I have the right number here. I think I do.…”

My brother Mark mostly just laughed, and then expressed his approval.

“I like the message. The message is funny for the first time. It’s kind of techno-scary, but different,” he said.

My siblings must have a better sense of humor than I—I wasn’t laughing at all.

I suppose I could have figured out how to change the message, but it was easier to harangue David. 

“Just say the phone number,” I told him. I figured the shorter, the better.

His next message said, “They ain’t home,” in a gruff voice after he gave the phone number. It continued to scare and confuse people and I continued to harangue him to change it to something more normal.

The current message features David in a sing-song sort of voice as if he’s reciting a jingle, “Green-Leddy. Get ready. Record your message now!”

It’s a happier message and I don’t even care that it’s missing our phone number. It’s as normal as it’s going to get around here.

I shouldn’t really complain, especially since I’ve been greatly entertained going back and listening to some of the messages randomly saved over the years, including this snippet of recorded conversation from when David picked up the phone too late when my friend Adrienne called.

“I’m standing here naked in the bathroom so I can’t just run out and shut that thing off,” David says.

“Did you have to give me that mental image just now? I just finished breakfast,” Adrienne says and then laughing, continues, “Oh, Mister, who’s going to see you?”

“Oh, we’ve got windows,” says David.

And we’ve got a decent answering machine message. All is well. 

(Except for the part about Ben, Rosie, and Maddie not living here anymore...)

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