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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of “All that Glitters is Not Gold” (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (01/24/08)

TITLE: No Sleep for the Beep Creep
By Dianne Janak


Once upon a time, our world managed to flow quite smoothly without answering machines. People actually had to continuing calling or give up. It was amazing, but somehow life still worked.

Until I heard my first beep, I loved to talk. That stupid beep almost shut me up for good.

The first day I finally left a message needs to be recorded in a time capsule, and read by 8 year olds digging up our flowerbed in the year 2035. Hopefully my pain will be their gain.

This may shock you, if you dare to keep reading, but I need to sleep again, so must get this out.

Our first friends that gave into the latest wonder of high- tech America, were at first miffed at the rest of us. We didn’t leave messages. There was something about the beep that was intimidating and felt like an invasion our right to remain silent lest we humiliate ourselves.

A weird recording with a familiar too- cheerful voice, telling us they weren’t home, so please leave a message, was aggravating. The added insult of possibly being screened nailed its coffin.

I wanted to start a support group for people’s right to remain silent, but my army was getting smaller as time marched on. People were giving in like flies. I stubbornly held onto my values, until one horrific day that is the turning point of my life with new technology. I don’t trust it.

I really needed to talk to Ricky, a church friend,about something important. That something gets lost in the horror of this story, so never mind, just trust me. It must have been important for me to break down.

Ricky was well loved by all. Unfortunately he had a speech impediment that caused him to stutter . It wasn’t a small stutter, that could be overlooked. It was a really serious speech handicap that kept him frustrated, no matter how patient and loving we all were. It broke our hearts to hear him try so hard to get a sentence out, but we knew finishing his sentences was not helpful, and so we learned to wait and help him relax.

His wife obviously left the answer machine message, and while she was talking, I remember thinking to myself…”whatever you do, do NOT stutter,” which was weird since I never do, but I had never been introduced by a machine beep before, and my thought process got all messed up.

My husband, sitting next to me in our den, heard it as my witness. ( in case this story is not believable to you, you can ask him later for verification.)

My very first experience at conversing with a machine sounded like this:
“R-r-r-ricky, this is M-m-m-me. I f—f—f—forget m-m-my name. I h-h-hate this th-th-th thing.
Ca-ca-ca-call me ba-ba-ba-back.”

I hung up wishing for an early death by immediate earth swallowing, but I deserved slow torture.

My husband looked at me, and said “that is the meanest thing I have ever heard you do in our entire marriage.”

And I had had some mean moments in 15 years of marriage.

But this was NOT intentional.

“I tried NOT to think about stuttering and it’s like the pink elephant you aren’t supposed to think about. I freaked at the beep.”

On the verge of tears, I called my best friend who was no help. She laughed so hard, she couldn’t get her breath. I had to re-evaluate our friendship.

My mentor at the time, all she could come up with was “You are going to have to either change churches OR break into Ricky’s apartment and steal his machine.”

I considered the latter as I loved my church.

My freak- at- the- beep got around our small church before Sunday ( no one had a life back then) and Ricky was such a good sport, he was set up to play a joke on me by acting upset. He thought my pain was hilarious.

There are still times my hubby thinks I’m a creep, but I no longer lose any sleep about the beep. This story definitely needs to be put into a time capsule. Perhaps I need to think of an alias.

All was forgiven, but I don’t forgive the beep.

When in doubt, blame a machine.

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Member Comments
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Laury Hubrich 02/01/08
Very interesting read. I hate answering machines, too. Not sure how on topic this was, though. Maybe I just missed it. It's a great story, though. Very funny. I like the conversational tone:)
Joanne Sher 02/02/08
Enjoyed the voice of this - and a fun read. The link to the topic seemed tangential, but I'm very glad I read this. Keep writing!
Denise Pienaar02/06/08
I so relate to this story. I also freeze at the sound of the dreaded anwering machine! My throat closes and I am rendered speechless, unable to get more than a panicked squeak past my lips. I enjoyed the light-hearted, amusing style of writing.