Saturday, November 4, 2017

Where we answer the question, "How do you keep a guy with no life in suspense?"

"Hi," the familiar voice on the message machine said, adding, "It's me,  Cecile.  Just phoning to say 'hi' to Helena. Nothing important. I'll call back later....

Normally, I would finish that sentence with a period and closing quotation marks, but that would be inaccurate because Cecile left the message but she did not hang up.

Cecile's not her real name. I changed it because she doesn't know I'm writing this plus she gets pretty potty mouthed later on and the real Cecile might not want to own up.

But back to the call. She clearly meant to hang up, but instead of a "click", I heard a very familiar sort of empty-room silence. Suddenly,  I was, like, eavesdropping.

I couldn't hang up. I had to find out how this would end.

First thing I heard? The unmistakable rhythmic sloppy flopping sound of windshield wipers. Cecile was in a car.

A few seconds later? "In two kilometres, turn left," Siri--in that polite but horribly condescending voice--instructed.

More windshield wiping.

I was a good half a minute in. I figured that if Cecile hadn't said anything by now, she was very likely alone. Unless she was with her husband but they weren't talking. Not that that has ever happened in any car I've been in. But still.

More windshield wiping. I asked myself: "Pete, is what you're doing weird or what?" 

I guess my answer was, "Maybe, but not weird enough to make me hang up. Something's gotta happen. Who knows? Cecile might be one of those people who talks to herself, and she'll be like, 'Gosh Helena's husband is a talented, good-looking and hard-working man. I wonder if he ever stops to consider how humble he is.'"

But no.

Instead, Cecile started to whistle. And not one of those aimless whistles people produce by default. She whistled an identifiable melody.  I've always liked people who choose to whistle real songs when they're all by themselves.

"Blessed are the whistlers, for they shall see humour everywhere," Jesus meant to say.

But before I could identify the tune, Cecile stopped. I guessed she'd arrived at that left turn Siri had been going on about.

More than 90 seconds had passed. I thought, "For a guy who somebody described as hard-working only four paragraphs ago, I sure have a lot of time on my hands."

But no way could I hang up.

More whistling. More windshield wipers. By now, and I'm pretty sure this had something to do with the fact that Helena and I watched Psycho a day earlier, I actually found myself thinking, "I honestly hope Cecile made this call during daylight hours because listening to her drive at night by herself would just be too creepy, even for me."

More wipers. Decidedly noisy ones, too--a fact I found reassuring because the wipers on my car are pretty loud, but Cecile tools about in a rather up-market sedan. So maybe mine aren't so bad.

The whistling stopped. A pause. Cecile says, "Oh shit. I missed it."

Victory! Not that Cecile was lost; but rather, I enjoy it when Siri and other machines screw up. It proves they're not really that much smarter than me.

But what would Cecile do now? I was not to find out.

The call dropped. The answering machine had decided enough was enough.

A tad relieved, I could return to what I had been doing before the phone rang.  And it occurred to me: If  the machine hadn't hung up, I'd have kept listening.

So please, go back a half dozen sentences.

That thing I wrote about machines not having more sense than me? You didn't hear it from me.

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