The little red light was blinking on my answering machine when I got home the other night. It was flickering out of control, indicating that there were dozens of messages. Usually there are no more than two or three, for a family of four.
That red light no longer excites me as it did when I was in my 20s, and single. Back then, any message might have been from Destiny himself, perhaps in the form of that brooding and damaged and thus (I’d decided) terribly deep poet-and-incidentally-bartender who’d conveyed so much in the way his nicotine-stained fingers deftly worked the soda hose. Or maybe the message was from a visionary potential employer with the acumen to recognize my nascent talent before anyone else, calling to offer me huge amounts of money to work for her in her highly visible and glamorous field. Or perhaps the call was from my best friend saying, “Fuck it, Steph, let’s sign up to be air couriers and fly to Australia for a few months. We don’t need money! If not now, when? If not us, who?” Yeah! Any of those would have been thrilling.
And even if, when I actually pressed the “play messages” button, it was my mom calling to see if I was coming to the Passover seder she was hosting under protest at the request of my more observant stepfather, I found the idea that it could have been any of those thingsÂ intensely energizing. I practically sprinted from the door to the answering machine without taking off my coat.
Nowadays, I sometimes forget to check. First off, I’m married, and one of the many benefits marriage confers is that there is little, if any, question that the guy will call. When I press play now, if it’s not a robo call from Payless informing me of their fabulous two-for-one summer shoe preview, it’s an appointment confirmation message from Sasha’s eye doctor. Sometimes it’s my sister-in-law just calling to say hi, or my dad expressing his desire to make a date to see the grandkids. Anything critical has been dealt with earlier in the day on my cell phone, which of course didn’t exist when I was in my 20s. The lack of such technology allowed for the possibility that there might be something lifechanging waiting for you at home on your machine. But even more than that, having a life that was as yet so unlived and thus unwritten meant that one message might well alter your horizon.
Still, it’s all good, my phone messages signs of a relatively functional family system lumbering forward. So far, there have been no threatening repo men (knock wood) or ultra attractive support staff from anyone’s office trying to break up our marriage. I’m happy about that. But excited? Not so much.
The other night when the machine was going nuts, I felt a little frisson of the old feeling. Wow, I thought. What could be so important? What mysterious person is calling so often and so persistently? This is thrilling! Maybe we won the lottery? Nah. We don’t play the lottery. A long lost relative? Someone who has read my work and wants to offer me a gigantic seven figure contract right off the bat, just on the basis of what he’s seen so far? Please. Stop. Just press the button and don’t be an idiot. Uh-oh. Maybe it’s bad news. Maybe…
I pressed the button. The first two calls were hangups. There was one recording from Toyota of Manhattan reminding us about a service we needed for our Prius. A message for my husband. A message from a friend who later tried and got me on my cell.
And then there were three calls in a row that were mostly static and background noise, but I could hear my own voice participting in a conversation I was having at my desk with someone I worked with. We were talking about an article we were working on together, and then we went off on a tangent about something that we agreed was annoying, then further agreed was less annoying that something else we found annoying. Then the call ended, and two more messages just like it followed.
The content of the calls is unimportant. What is imporant is that the calls were being placed by my own ass.
I had my Blackberry in my back pocket, and I guess my pants were too tight (notice how I didn’t say that my butt was too big? My clothes must accomodate my butt, not the other way around!) and the call button got pressed and the machine recorded me having a conversation.
It made me wonder how many other people my butt had called over the years. Had my butt called Brazil? That would account for some of my overage. What if my butt called my husband when I was venting about him to a friend? What if my butt called the White House and recorded me saying something treasonous about a recent ex-President? (It might call me back and thank me.) I know for a fact that my ass once called my friend Andie, who told me her ass has also been known to make personal calls.
It is clear that I can no longer trust my butt’s discretion. Maybe I should get a nanny cam for my butt. It may be up to other forms of no good. It’s not like I can watch it every second, now can I?