Maybe it’s a big magnetic field… of suckiness

By Mir
September 22, 2004

This day is shaping up just swimmingly, lemme tell ya. It’s 11:15 and I haven’t even had a shower yet. It’s that kind of day.

I woke up with a sore throat. No biggie. Just the start of a cold, most likely. But it didn’t put me in the most stellar of moods, I suppose you could say. So the fact that the children were rather, uhhhhh, high-spirited, let’s say, this morning, was perhaps not fully appreciated by my cranky self. Nevertheless, they were washed and dressed and fed and ushered out the door at the appropriate time. I packed lovely lunches that no one will eat, and even wrote Chickadee a touching note on her lunch napkin (making use of that age-old term of endearment, “Mrs. Grumpy Gills”).

I returned home fully intending to take a shower, first thing. But I should probably check my email first… and maybe catch up on blogs… and golly I am really tired and yucky-feeling, maybe I’ll just lie down for a little bit.

There are very few perks to being unemployed. Freedom to take a nap when you feel crappy is one of them.

Nestled snugly in bed, dozing, I glared at the phone when it rang. Have I mentioned my deep and enduring love for Caller ID? I heart my Caller ID. My true love Caller ID let me know that this was a lady from church calling, most likely about the bible study group I’d missed last week but that was meeting again today. I was not in the mood for a guilt trip or even exchanging pleasantries, so Caller ID and I decided to let the machine pick up. Problem solved.

Only, things did not go according to plan. Ordinarily my answering machine treats callers to my most cheerful self saying something along the lines of, “Hello! You have reached 555-1212! And this is NOT the Department of Motor Vehicles! HAHA! But if you’re calling for us and not the DMV, leave us a message and we’ll call you back! Tralala! Bye!!” I’m blessed with the number most often misdialed when folks are trying to reach the local DMV, so it’s not as bizarre as it might seem, although I promise it is at least twice as chirpy and annoying as it reads.

So, the phone rang and rang and then I heard the click as the machine picked up, and instead of transmitting my beautifully-crafted message of joy and love and suburban wit, the greeting sounded like this:

For some inexplicable reason, my caller hung up without leaving a message. Perhaps because she suspected Satan was now inhabiting my answering machine. It’s hard to know.

This was perplexing, sure, but I was still only about half-awake and I thought to myself, “Perhaps my darling children have been fooling around with the machine and accidentally recorded a new message. How charming.” And I was all set to go back to drooling on my pillow when the phone rang again. Caller ID identified the caller as “Smallville, Town of.”

One of my friends teaches at the high school, and when she calls me from school it comes up as “Smallville, Town of,” but this was the middle of the morning and she never calls me then. Between the second and third rings my feeble brain managed to piece together that if the high school comes up that way, there’s an excellent chance that all of our schools do, too. Like, perhaps, including the elementary school?

“Hello, Mrs. Chickadee’s Mom? This is the nurse at Small School. I have Chickadee here in my office, and she’s complaining of a sore throat. She has a very low fever, 99.2, which is sort of borderline.”

I adore my children, you know. It’s not that I’m insensitive to them in times of sickness. But my daughter? Is a bit of a hypochondriac. She’d been fine this morning at breakfast. Trying not to sound too much like a horrible parent, I asked the nurse if she could give her some tylenol and send her back to class. She agreed that that would be fine, she’d administer the tylenol and call me back if Chickadee wasn’t feeling any better. I thanked her and hung up.

Hmmm. Tylenol sounded like a good idea. I took some, myself, and went downstairs to have a look at my answering machine. I replayed my greeting and this time it sounded very much like someone had extracted the digital chip, put it in the blender with a few minor demons, and cranked it up to “ice crush.” Weird. Just for kicks, I hit “PLAY” to listen to my saved messages:

That first message was pretty old, but I really don’t remember anybody leaving that as an important missive. Hmmm. The chip is scrambled? I don’t know. Great. This is just what I need. What I want most in the world right now is to have to buy a new answering machine. Fabulous! Yay! Perhaps I could also stick something sharp in my eye so that I can make this feeling last!

What I need is some caffeine. A nice hot cup of tea will make me feel better. But so would lying back down. And being the woman of action that I am, I opt to head back to bed… where the phone wakes me about .035 seconds after I fall asleep. Only this time, my answering machine–set on tollsaver mode, also known as “if there’s already a message, pick up immediately”–picks up before I can get to the phone, spews its garbled confusion, and the caller hangs up. All before the Caller ID even has time to identify who it was. But lucky for me, then my cell phone starts to ring! So I get to run down the stairs!

“This is the nurse again. Something is wrong with your phone, I think. Anyway, Chickadee isn’t feeling any better. Could you please come pick her up?”

Out I go to pick up my dying swan (who seems fine, if a little pale), and it occurs to me on the drive back that on the off chance that anyone tries to call me about a job, they are not going to be able to leave me a message. I start to hyperventilate. We arrive home to… the blinking “new message” light on the machine. Oh dear lord, no.

“BEEEEEEEEP. Hi, Mir? I think there’s something wrong with your outgoing message. Anyway, hope you can join us for bible study today!”

So, apparently some sort of cosmic event scrambled all the existing messages on my machine, but now it’s fine. Interesting. I’m sure I’ll want to spend some more time thinking about it, but for right now, who wants a popsicle?


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