September 19, 2012. I am being a total cheater and linking this oldie up with Dionne’s “Raw Ten-Minute Wednesday.” Because, dang it, the prompt was “Funny Stories” and it’s still one of my favorites.
One morning last week I came in from a few errands to find the home phone’s “message” light blinking. I dialed in and listened to a rapid-fire spiel that sounded like, “Mr. Johnson, this is Jerry from Quadrangle Corporation. You had called us about our termite service, and by now you should have received the information we mailed you. I’m calling to see if you have any questions.”Oh, great, I thought, Brent didn’t say anything about seeing termites. Jerry went on, unperturbed at the vermin that threatened our very infrastructure. “I’ll be glad to set up a time to help you with your termite insurance needs.” He ended with a phone number. Nice. Sounds like they guarantee their work. I saved the message and made a mental note to tell Brent, but it sort of slipped my mind until after dinner that night.
Brent picked up the phone, heard the beeping, and said, “Hey, we have a message.”
“Yikes, I forgot to mention—” but he was already listening to Jerry. In mid-stream, though, he deleted the message and hung up.
I looked around at him. “Oh–didn’t you call an exterminator?”
Brent froze, staring at me. One of his eyebrows migrated upward but the corners of his mouth failed to follow suit. What on earth . . . ?
So I said, “Did you get some information in the mail about termite insurance?”
“Yes, but I’m not going with that company.”
“But… they are exterminators… right?” I asked.
Same blank yet incredulous stare from Brent. This was going nowhere. I took shelter in repetition: “Termite. Insurance. Right?”
Finally, the light came on and Brent thawed somewhat. Enunciating carefully, he said, “That’s TERM. LIFE. INSURANCE.” He shook his head and added with a woeful look, “Don’t talk about ‘exterminators’ when I’m shopping for life insurance.”
I was laughing pretty hard, but tried to sound contrite as I explained, “No, I just thought that guy was an exterminator … he kept saying ‘termite insurance.’ … At least … that’s what it sounded like…”
I sputtered to a stop but by now Brent had rallied. “Another bad spy movie!” He struck a pose. “Paris is lovely at this time of year.”
“An oak tree grows by the gate…”
The moral of this story is: If you leave someone a voice message, even if you have said the exact same thing a thousand times a day for six years and could repeat it backwards in your sleep, remember that the person hearing it does not have your spiel memorized. They will have to actually understand what you say, or you might as well not leave a message at all.
So slow down and enunciate — otherwise you risk sending the Johnsons into another bad spy movie.
Thanks for reading!