Wednesday, April 29, 2009

When One Phone Recording Talks to Another

Our answering machine has picked up a bizarre recorded message several times over the past month or so. Oddly enough, the recording asks for a different person each time—but that person is never someone named Lingefelt.

A woman’s deceptively pleasant voice does most of the talking except when stating the name of the person they’re looking for, then the voice becomes deeper, stiffer, and—dare I say it—more menacing. (All proper nouns are fictional, see previous blog entry.)

“This is National Credit Data Collection Systems of America with an important phone call for Lausanne Davin. If you are Lausanne Davin, please press 1. If you are not Lausanne Davin, please press 2.”

I don’t pick up the phone to press anything, I just listen. Next comes my favorite part of the message:

“If you pressed 1, please stay on the line. If you pressed 2, please do not listen to the rest of this message.”

Excuse me? You dialed my phone number. You’re taking up valuable recording space on my answering machine. Your blathering has interrupted me and pulled me away from matters more important, even if they’re not as blogworthy. This is my home, my private domain, and through your own ineptitude, you have intruded upon it. Therefore, since you are now here, I jolly well intend to listen to every word you have to say henceforth.

It’s as if the recorded caller has never heard of answering machines or voice mail, or they might say, “If you are Lausanne Davin, please pick up.” But they can’t make her pick up anymore than they can make me not listen to the rest of their message.

So I listen to the rest of the message, even though I’m not supposed to. Apparently they don’t want me to know that Lausanne is in deep doo-doo debt and has some serious ’splainin’ to do to her creditors. She is to call a certain number between certain hours on certain days, unless she wants her name reported to certain agencies.

Only why don’t they want me to know? If they think she can be reached at this number, wouldn’t they appreciate me taking the message for her, perhaps even talking to her as a friend who cares, and persuade her to pay her bills? Not that I intend to give her a loan myself, now that I know from this message she'll never repay the money.

Or are they afraid I might use the information against her, spread mean gossip about her? “You remember Lausanne Davin, don’t you? Well, guess what I heard about her? She’s—(gasp!)—behind on her credit card payments! Can you believe it?”

In this day and age, that’s shockingly juicy.

But here’s what bewilders me about this phone call: If you have an answering machine or voice mail, why pick up and press 1 or 2, regardless of whether you’re Lausanne or Karen, if you’re going to hear their message anyway?

Given the circumstances and my own overly suspicious nature (oh, go ahead and call me paranoid if you like, it won't be the first time), I can’t help thinking that if—just for kicks—I picked up this phone call and pressed 1 pretending to be Lausanne, I would not get the same message I’m not supposed to listen to.

Instead, I would get trouble.

I could get trapped in a web of “reverse identity theft” in which I would somehow find myself on the hook for Lausanne’s debts—which could very well extend to overdue library books, parking tickets, arrest warrants, fines from her homeowner’s association for displaying the wrong colored gnome in her flower bed, and don’t even get me started on the unwanted “parting gifts” she might have accumulated from her string of ne’er-do-well exes. Lausanne Davin may not even exist at all, but only be a figment of someone’s imagination, invented solely for that person’s fiendish amusement and potential profit. (Hmm—rather like the “real” Lausanne Davin.)

On the other hand, if that were so, then why have the "press 2" option?

I would rather not know, but instead be thankful for the answering machine. It screens, baffles, and amuses.


Phyllis J. Towzey said...

I love the ones that say, "by staying on the line you are admitting that you are Lausane Davin." I guess my voice mail system should have the sense to disconnect before it goes any farther . . .

Karen Lingefelt said...

Yikes, Phyllis! I've never gotten one of those. Who knows at what point they could say you're staying on the line? All I can say is God Bless my answering machine.