After The Beep

A while ago, following a visit to mum’s, we came home with a discarded bit of kit that had been used, and replaced, by my dad. I am, when it comes to things like that, very much my father’s son, and somewhat of an electrical magpie, because it’s all too good to throw away and it’s a shame not to put things to good use.

It was, basically, a cordless phone set – two base units, two phones. Bish bash and bosh. We already had a set which we have had for a while but in the time we have had it one handset stopped working all together and the remaining one claims to always be charged and then just turns off when it fancies. So rather than get a new one, I reasoned, we could half-inch the one that my mum doesn’t use (having moved on even further handset-wise) and set that up at home.

It sat in a box for ages. And then the other week when I accidentally let Trixie into the house to make herself at home and generally get in the way as I moved furniture about, I figured it would be the perfect time to set it up. So I did.

Now, it surprised me that my dad didn’t erase the contacts list when he packed the phone up. We had a phone that has in it all of my grandma’s friends who no longer phone her because she’s a mean, miserable old lady. Plus a variety of people that mum and dad knew, didn’t know or had crossed paths with a couple of times. I wiped them all off and started to put in our contacts. I did me, Carole and my mum before I got bored. I’ll revisit them all at some point, but for now that’ll do.

I suppose, in hindsight, I should have looked further into what was on the phones because the other day Carole called the house and I didn’t get to answer it in time and we discovered that my dad is on the answer machine.

It’s somewhat weird to hear your dad’s voice about eighteen months after you last heard it. And it’s even weirder when you’re entirely not expecting it. He’s not even saying anything particularly exciting – just the usual blurb about not being able to take your call and leaving a message after the tone. That’s it. That’s all there is. But it’s just strange to hear. If for no other reason than the slightly weird way he says “tone”.

And then comes the realisation that a couple of days before you discovered your dad was the voice on your answer machine message, your mum rang and left a message for you. So you have unwittingly exposed your mother to a recording of her late husband without even knowing it was there. That made me feel weird. I haven’t brought it up with her because I don’t even know where to start. I don’t want her to feel bad if she didn’t hear it properly or realise what she was listening to.

And then you start to think about what you should do with the recording. It’s still there. It’s still our outgoing answerphone message. We’re just not turning the answerphone on, so no-one hears it. I can’t quite bring myself to record over it. Not just yet. I’m sure I will, given enough time. It’s just the shock of hearing it, that makes me think immediately wiping it from existence is the wrong thing to do. So, for now, you can ring our house and not leave a message.

Except the bloody machine turns itself on, on the quiet.

I don’t know why. I’m not sure if it does it when it hits a certain time or what, like the do not disturb function on your smart phone, but every morning the machine is back on ready for anyone who happens to call to leave a message with my dad.

And every day I turn it back off again. And think about re-recording the message.

But not just yet…