This I Believe

Kimberly - Indianapolis, Indiana
Entered on October 22, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: humanism

This I believe:

I believe that the person who leaves the message on the telephone answering machine runs the household.

I am a 44-year-old woman who has been mostly happily married to the same man for 23 years with two school-aged children. And though I graduated from a four-year university and THEN went to vocational school and became a stenographer for seven years before becoming a stay-at-home mother, I have never considered myself an expert at anything expect observing. I’m an observer of human behavior. I truly love this about myself. Observing is my best quality. I’m fascinated with people and how they put themselves out into the world.

But now that I’m a mom and no longer being paid to observe while tapping the keys of my Xscribe court reporting machine and no longer preparing transcripts of my observations to earn a living, I am able to observe regular household individuals living life and being themselves. “Who leaves the message on the answering machine” has become a favorite observation of mine.

And the message-makers I’m talking about are the kind of people you see at the grocery store, on the playground, at the gym, at little league games, at charity dinners, school fund-raisers, walking in shopping malls, driving in traffic and attending neighborhood meetings. I love it when someone new comes into my life and we exchange telephone numbers. I can’t wait to give them a ring because this is my opportunity to look into this individual’s life and learn so much about them without being nosy. And I can learn a lot! People are telling the telephonic world who runs their household by the message that is left on the answering machine. Unaware, they are providing a lot of information to the observer like me.

You’ve all called the home and the serious man leaves the message. What does that tell you about that household and the wife you’re trying to get in touch with? Tells me this is a very traditional home and that he is probably the final decision-maker in the home. And what does it tell you if the wife leaves the message? Tells me she is running the show. She usually tells you exactly how to leave the message and what to do after you leave the message as well. And what about the families whose kids leave those cute but irritating messages? We all know who runs that family! And how about when you call a home and the message is from the automated voice that came with the machine? That tells me NO ONE is in charge at that home! Sometimes the dog barks on the machine. That tells me that dog is of great importance in the household and next time we speak I’ll ask them about their dog. Sometimes the kids leave the message and the mom chimes in. That tells me the mom is into the kids. I’m sure you’re going to call your friends now and observe who leaves the telephone messages and learn a lot more about your friends and family by listening to their messages. It’s very telling.

There is probably nothing about this observation that will change the world. But in an era when people are using technology and life is getting less personal, I believe you can learn a lot by listening to who leaves the message on the telephone answering machine. I like that people leave messages… or don’t.

For what it’s worth, their messages have taught me, entertained me and gave me a window into their world. And if you want the 4-1-1 from me, it’s my husband who leaves our message…