I called Ron and Tracy’s house this morning to fill them in on my sister’s wedding spectacle. Since no one picked up the phone, I had to leave a message on their answering machine. I tried to anyway. After hearing Ron’s pre-beep greeting, I laughed so hard I could barely get the words out. I didn’t think my friend intended to extend that particular message invite, and I was right (as Ron confirmed when we spoke this afternoon).
Ron’s inadvertent comic masterpiece reminded me of the deliberately perverse greetings I regularly recorded on my answering machine while single. My favorite was the “Fetal Pizza Palace.” It went like this:
You have reached the fetal pizza palace, where our motto is: “Whatever you conceive we deliver.” At the beep, please leave your name, womb number and choice of toppings, and we’ll get back to you shortly. And remember, if you don’t hear from us in thirty minutes, the placenta’s on us.
Unlike my uniformly warped presentation, Ron’s greeting began seriously enough, but tacked on an unwitting punchline. Once I clued him in, he told me how the fiasco must’ve occurred. He said he’d been in the midst of recording the greeting when he thought he heard a crashing noise from upstairs. In trying to make out the sound, he failed to realize that the still-recording answering machine had picked up commentary offered by Tracy’s feisty grandmother, Betsy. (She was sitting a few feet away reading the morning paper.) A moment later, Ron clearly heard their toddler wailing and raced off to investigate, after hitting the “stop” button. He got caught up in staunching a nasty cut suffered by his child and promptly forgot about the greeting. A short while later he and his son drove Betsy to her doctor’s appointment, leaving the house without occupants, and the answering machine on.
By the time he learned of and corrected his erroneous greeting, I wasn’t the only person who’d called. But Ron doubts he’ll ever identify the others, since no one but me left an actual message. Instead, the machine played back three substantial silences before those callers hung up.
I for one loved my friend’s atypical greeting, and I wish he could’ve kept it. What made it so funny was the perfect splicing of the final product. In the greeting’s first part, Ron’s voice conveyed a traditional spiel: “You’ve reached Ron, Tracy, Betsy and Dylan; at the beep, you know what to do …” That’s where Betsy’s voice smoothly cut in, adding her patented catchphrase: “Fuck ’em!”