Growing up, my family didn’t have a lot of things that most normal, suburban families did. We didn’t have permission to go to the mall or visit friends on Sundays (after morning church it was family day), we didn’t have cable TV (it was smut for which people willingly paid EXTRA), and we didn’t have an answering machine (whoever it is, they can call back). I never thought much of the answering machine situation until my peers began recording cool intro messages on their family’s respective answering machines. Your intro message set the tone. You could show that you were a hip music fan, like my friend Jothi who rapped her family’s greeting (literally with the rhymes: “We’re out now or we’re asleep, so leave your name and number at the sound of the beep”). You could show that you were super cool and didn’t give a rat’s ass about convention, like Dylan McKay (90210 original) whose intro message was the unforgettable, “This is Dylan, you know the drill.” BADASS!
During mid-year exams in late 1994, my sister Laurel and I wanted in on the intro message action. Alas, our Luddite-like upbringing left us without an answering machine and there wasn’t much we could do. Until we discovered a tape recorder on my dad’s desk and decided that we’d convince “the world” (her then-boyfriend) that we were super chill cats via intro message. Yes, we recorded a fake answering machine intro (background music and all) and played it into a phone receiver to give the illusion that our family wasn’t like “Little House on the Prairie.” We developed an elaborate scheme to make it seem like we had an answering machine, when we never did. Is this pathetic?
Pathetic move or not, the intro message that we recorded was carefully curated to show just how cool we were. After a few rings, we’d pick up the phone, place the tape recorder next to the mouthpiece, and press PLAY, at which point the person on the other end (Laurel’s private school boyfriend) would hear:
-The first few measures of “Under Pressure” by Queen & David Bowie
-LAUREL: Hey (deliberately chill). We’re busy studying for exams (get it? PRESSURE!). Leave a message.
At that point, the boy would think that he was leaving a message, when we’d just be on the other end of the phone listening to him. Then we’d all hang up and Laurel’s then-boyfriend would none the wiser. She’d call him back and he’d think that our family was the kind of family that had an answering machine. Hell, he’d probably think we had CABLE, too! Plus, he’d know for sure that Laurel and I were cool cats because we had such a chill, smart, brilliantly-executed intro message.
As I write this out, I realize that we didn’t need to record that fake message then play it into the phone. We could have simply picked up the phone and delivered the fake intro message live. Either way… I’m pretty sure this is pathetic. But “Under Pressure” is a hella good song, nonetheless.