03:58:00 pm on
Tuesday 28 Sep 2021

The Joy of Voicemail
AJ Robinson

“So shines a good deed in a weary world.” That’s a quote from the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. In fact, it’s paraphrasing a line from Shakespeare, in The Merchant of Venice.

The curse of the smart phone.

The other day, a good deed was done to me and not by a person. No, it was my phone. Sounds kind of odd, doesn’t it?

How can a phone do that? Yet, it did. I thought to share it as, let’s face it, phones tend to get a bad rap these days.

Truth be told, phones deserve the bad rap. I go to lunch, out shopping or even to a movie, and what do I see? People on their phones. They’re texting, they’re playing a game, anything but engaging with each other.

We thought video games were bad. Although, just to be honest, I have been known to check my email and play the occasional game myself. Can’t deny myself such fun, occasionally.

How many car accidents have been because of phone-distracted drivers? How many laws have been passed to address this exact issue? Yes, phones, cell or smart, are not exactly a purely good piece of technology.

As many things in life, a phone is neither good nor evil. It’s merely an object. How we use our phones defines the phone.

For once my cell phone gets to be called good, so very, very good. As do many people, I have voicemail, what we once called a phone answering machine, to record any missed calls we can’t answer for one reason or another. Typically, I listen to the messages and delete each one.

Some I don’t even bother listening to the whole message. When I get one that starts with, “We’re giving you one last call regarding your car’s warranty before we close your file….” I quickly erase it.

Not the message I listened to the other day, though. It’s quite the old message, too. I checked, it’s dated 2 October 2019 and has a timestamp of 7:54 pm.

The wonders of technology.

Wow, ain’t technology something? It’s a voicemail from my mom. Nothing special, at the time; she was calling to say she’d seen the pictures of the townhome we were getting ready to buy.

We’d posted some shots on our Facebook pages. She thought the place looked nice. She liked the trees out front. She closed with something very simple and common to say at the end of a phone message: she said she loved all of us.

As I said, a perfectly normal thing for a mom or any family member to say before hanging up at the conclusion of a phone call. It’s not as if she didn’t say the same to me many times after that call. The last time I saw her, it was following the memorial for my brother Greg, we both expressed our love to each other multiple times and with many, many kisses.

Those wonderful words of affection are consigned to history. Each one lives on only in my memory. That voicemail is her voice, her normal voice, her strong resilient voice that has been unchanged and unwavering for most of my life.

Her voice when we last met was her old voice, the voice of an elderly woman still grieving the loss of a second child. That voice, although still hers, was broken with sadness and carried the burden of age and pain.

On the voicemail, that’s my mom. Her tone is light and happy. I can close my eyes and see her smiling, see the twinkle in her eyes. I know that after hanging up the phone she went off to sit with friends to play cards, share a meal or maybe enjoy a game of Mah-jong.

Voicemail is good for something.

I like listening to her voicemail. Yes, I breakdown every time I hear it. Guess that’s going to be the case for a while. I don’t mind. So yes, my cell phone is good for something. Think I’ll be saving messages from other important people in my life for a long while.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Working, again, as an engineeer, after years out of the field due to 2009 recession and slow recovery, Robinson finds time to write. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true. His teen vampire adventure novel, "Vampire Vendetta," will publish in 2020. Robinson continues to write books, screenplays and teleplays and keeps hoping for that big break.

More by AJ Robinson:
Tell a Friend

Click above to tell a friend about this article.