Book Report: Getting Even with the Answering Machine by John Carfi & Cliff Carle (1985, 1990)

This book stems from an era, lo those 25 years ago, where it was slightly fashionable or at least humorous to oppose the impersonal answering machine. I didn’t really recollect it until I saw this book. But there were lots of books in that era about having funny answering machine messages and this book about leaving funny messages on someone’s answering machine. Wow, the novelty of that has passed, hey? Do you remember seeing actual pretaped humorous answering machine cassettes? How old am I?

As I mentioned, this book includes humorous messages you could leave to show your disdain for the answering machine. Its first chapter, in fact, is about bad outgoing messages and having to talk to a machine yourself. There are some messages purportedly from celebrities and then some from fake businesses. Finally, there was a section on jokes, most of them corny, but the only laugh I got out of the books was from the joke What do you get when you cross the Atlantic with the Titanic? About half way.

The book apparently rode a trend and was some kind of success at the time; this is a printing five years after the original edition. The publisher and authors also had a line of books with funny outgoing messages. I wondered about people who would buy these books new, which led me to wonder about people who buy these books second hand. Before I got too introspective, though, I smelled the book and realized that I hadn’t bught it at all–the book had been my mother’s, tucked among the four shelves of books in her office. How-to home improvement books, some antique reference she’d gotten from her sister, a couple dictionaries, some paperbacks from television shows she’d liked that I’d bought her (which I’m reading these days), and this book. I wonder where she got it. I wish I could ask.

At any rate, the hour I spent on the book was worthwhile for the anachronism of the subject matter and for the anachronism of the contemporary humor within it, not to mention one funny joke. That makes it worth a whole Reader’s Digest without the latter’s modern turn into Gaia-worship.

Books mentioned in this review:

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