Cousin Claire and Cousin Blake gave my Aunt Beulah and Uncle Ralph an answering machine last Christmas. I know what you’re thinking. Who has answering machines anymore? Well, I assure you, a new answering machine is a step toward improved technology for my aunt and uncle. While Uncle Ralph would have preferred a new shotgun or railroad ties to line their driveway, Aunt Beulah seemed a bit more excited.
“Well lookie here,” Aunt Beulah exclaimed as she opened it Christmas morning. “An answering machine. How wonderful.”
“Now you won’t have to run to that rotary phone in the kitchen every time it rings,” my cousin Claire told her mother.
“But your mama likes runnin’ to the phone,” Uncle Ralph said. “She’s always interested in what somebody’s got to say about somebody else.”
“Now you know that isn’t so,” Aunt Beulah protested.
“And also,” my cousin Blake added. “If you’re outside hanging clothes on the line, you won’t miss any important calls.”
“Any call is important to your mama if somebody’s calling to give her a scoop about somebody else,” Uncle Ralph smirked.
“I appreciate it,” Aunt Beulah said to her children. “But it seems your daddy isn’t too keen on the idea of having one of these new-fangled contraptions.
“I hate talkin’ to those darned machines,” Uncle Ralph said. “’Leave your message at the beep’, is what they all say. ‘You’ve reached so-and-so; please leave your message at the tone.’ I don’t want to talk to a machine after the beep; I want to talk to a human being after they pick up.”
“You need to get with the times,” Blake insisted. “Everybody’s getting an answering machine.”
“Ev’rybody’s getting’ old too,” Uncle Ralph added. “And I don’t want to do that either. I’d have to get a Ph.D. in electronics to hook that thing up.”
“Daddy, we’ll be glad to set it up for you,” Claire tried to convince. “It won’t take but a minute.”
“I said I didn’t—," Uncle Ralph began.
“I see no harm in it whatsoever,” Aunt Beulah interrupted. “Let’s set it up right now.”
As usual, Aunt Beulah won over Uncle Ralph and the answering machine was installed Christmas Day. What followed is nothing less than a Christmas miracle.
If you call my Uncle Ralph’s and Aunt Beulah’s number, you won’t get the customary ten rings before Aunt Beulah answers it after running in from the clothesline while Uncle Ralph watches wrestlin’ from his recliner only two arm’s length away from the phone. No, Uncle Ralph hasn’t gotten any sudden burst of energy. What you will get is their answering machine. And the message is changed weekly. By whom? By none other than my wrestlin’-watching, well-reclined uncle.
That’s right. For a man who didn’t want that “darned machine” in his house, he sure is having the time of his life putting a new message on it every week.
The times that I have called and gotten the machine, I’ve heard Uncle Ralph reciting pitiful poetry like: ‘Roses are red, lettuce is green; Leave a message, after the beep on the machine’. There’s also dreadful rhyme schemes as: ‘My name is Ralph, Beulah is my wife; Please leave a message whether or not it’s a matter of death or life’. Last, but not least, there’s: ‘We are a little busy, but please don’t get in a tizzy, ‘Cause we’ll be back in a minute. And we’ll check our messages that are in it.’
I must admit the worst one was Uncle Ralph singing to the tune of Patsy Cline’s “Crazy”. It went something like this: ‘Sorry. We’re sorry we’re not home to hear you. Sorry. We’re sorry we can’t hear the phone. Hurry. Please hurry and leave us a message. We’re sorry, so sorry, so leave us a message the moment that you hear the tone’. Obviously, you won’t hear that one on the Top Ten Country Countdown.
So how has this wonderful Christmas present changed Aunt Beulah’s life? Well, actually, very little. Unfortunately, if she’s outside hanging up clothes or getting groceries out of the car, she still runs at a break neck pace to get the phone because she wants to get it before the answering machine picks up and the caller is subjected to one of Uncle Ralph’s ridiculous recorded messages.
If you’re tired of talking to answering machines instead of humans, I wouldn’t complain if I were you. Especially if you plan on calling my Aunt Beulah with a scoop anytime soon. Uncle Ralph’s latest machine message is sung to Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Breaky Heart”. Let me tell you, it’s enough to make you hang up all together.