Best (cough, cough) phone message (cough, hack) ever

Just after I walked into church in the pre-dawn hours of Sunday morning, I set down my brief case and hit the speaker button on my desk phone. Then I punched “9” and heard the intermittent tone that signaled a message. I normally don’t listen to messages on Sunday morning, but I was curious, so I dialed the voice mail number. “You have one new message.”

“Message left Friday at 3:20 pm.” Typical. Someone waited till the end of the week to call with a question. And the question went something like this:

“Hello, my name is <some words I couldn’t understand> and I wanted to <cough><cough><cough><hack><cough><hack><gasp><wheeze><cough>…”

The coughing and hacking went on for about thirty seconds, until the raspy voice said, “Oh, never mind!” And they hung up.

“You have no more messages. To delete your message…”

After all that, they never called back. They didn’t try again. They just gave up. Now I was really curious. What happened? Were they OK? Would I ever hear the question? I was also greatly amused. I laughed out loud, which for me is a great way to start my Sunday morning!

And then I hung up on her.

14ce545acaIt didn’t happen recently. It happened about ten years ago. I don’t remember what the issue was. I don’t know what I did or what I said. But I believe it is the only time I have ever hung up on someone. BTW, we had a landline, a phone on the wall, attached by a coiled cord, that could be “hung up.”

She was a member of our church and she was hot. I honestly don’t remember what I had said or done, but I hit a nerve. From the moment I said, “Hello,” she launched into a tirade of verbal attacks that allowed me very few chances to respond. She was angry, offended and irate. Her words were pointed, vicious, and bitter.

In vain, I tried to interject, “Can we talk about this sometime when you aren’t as upset?” In response she just loaded a new clip and let loose with a fresh round of verbal artillery.

At one point, I actually put down the phone on the kitchen table and walked away. When I returned five minutes later, the onslaught had not stopped. She had no idea that I had left and returned. It didn’t matter. I didn’t even need to be there.

Finally, I said, “I’m going to hang up.” The torrent of words did not abate, not even for the briefest of moments.

And then I hung up on her.

I don’t think we ever had another conversation, if you could call it that. But I know I never heard anything like it before or since. Not during a highly contested election. Not from a couple of boxers facing off at the weigh in. Not from the non-stop, dish-throwing, fat, ugly, arguing couple who lived in the apartment below me in New Jersey. (I promise I’ll tell that story soon.)

And I don’t think I’ve ever hung up on anyone else, either.