Skip to content

Comedy Gold

Mothers and answering machine messages. Hey, what?s up with that? Folks, I’ll be here all week.

I generally dislike hearing comics do material about how their crazy mother leaves them crazy answer machine messages. Not so much hilarious as hack. Maria Bamford is an exception. Her piece about her mother’s non-sequitur messages is so wonderfully absurd and accurate, it can?t be topped.

But lord knows my mum keeps trying. She?s never been particularly keen on the phone, especially since they replaced her old rotary dial with a touch tone version. Outwitted by its cunning design, she often replaces the handset back to front after making a call, making it impossible for anyone else to reach her. On the last occasion, I spent two hours trying to track down a neighbor to check in on her and finally resorted to calling out Neighborhood Watch. She rang me 10 minutes later to ask if I’d been trying to reach her because her ‘phone had stopped working’.

Mum’s much more of a letter writer and once I moved out, that’s pretty much how we communicated – her filling me in on all the important news from home. In fact I can chart my early twenties via her gardening updates. For example, I know I graduated college in 1987 because that’s the year a hard frost nearly wiped out the whole rose garden but was narrowly saved by some quick thinking and a hair dryer.

She still writes occasionally, generally with a clipping about some former pupil at my school who’s either dead, going to the Special Olympics or opening a fete. But we talk a lot more than we used to which is nice. However, she has a particular telephone voice and speaking style that she reserves for leaving messages. It has an old-fashioned wartime, black and white movie quality to it. Here?s the latest:

“Hello, it?s Mum” : Good start, though I would have probably figured it was you.

“I?m talking from England” : Ok, this is strange. Given that I know it?s you, I?m pretty sure I know where you?re calling from. If you?d said, ?I?m talking from the lobby of your building? then you?d have caught me off guard. But I?d still wonder why you said ?talking from? and not ?calling from?.

“I?m not sure who I?m going to speak to” : Well, you?re not going to be speaking to anyone. That?s the point of an answering machine, you leave us a message and we call you back.

Main part of call now delivered as if she?s leaving a message with someone else, to be forwarded to me: “I just wanted to let Maggie know that …… tell her I hope to hear from her soon….”

“Goodbye” : Goodbye? Did we step into the movie Brief Encounter? ?Oh Laura, shall I ever see you again?. ?I must go now Alec. Goodbye?. Will you be coming home for Christmas dear?

“Love, Mum” : Seriously, that?s the closer and with the audible comma too. It indicates that the talking is now over. Plus it?s easier to say than ?Love You?.

Cheerio. Toodlepip.