Donald Duck Hit the Hay, X-ray, X-ray

By Anthony Buccino

How on earth did our grandparents tolerate coded messages on their answering machines back in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s? Those folks had the pioneer spirit.

Another coded message found its way to our answering machine. This time the voice sounded serious and disguised at the same time, but the message was in code.

At least that’s what all the great minds that heard the tape decided. “It must be in code. It doesn’t make sense otherwise. Yes, it must be in a secret code.”

All codes are secret, or should be. Otherwise, why bother to have a code if it weren’t secret. Everyone would know what your message said if the code were not secret.

This is not some secret Ovaltine ring code, this is something serious, otherwise why would they leave a message on our answering machine?

Rambling Round - Inside and Outside at the Same Time by Anthony BuccinoSo, here we had a message in secret code that no one who heard it could agree on what it meant. Since it is not likely that you know the code, I think it is safe to repeat the message left on our machine: "Yo, Donald Duck hit the hay, X-ray, X-ray."

Now you have it. If you were the one waiting for the secret message to be left on your answering machine, now you have the coded message.

But you must tell your covert companion that he left the message on the wrong machine.

Had I not devised this clever way to slip the coded message to you, all your plans, whatever they are, could have been needlessly delayed for who knows how long.

Last year we got the midnight faxes from South Korea, Washington state and California, not on the same night, but over the course of a long, long summer. It is not that we were waiting for the midnight faxes, but they were somehow routed, through use of a misplaced area code, to our home telephone.

If the phone rings after dark at our house, somebody better be real sick or they are going to be hurting real bad.

For the longest time, the midnight faxes finally stopped interrupting my sleep. Perhaps, we reasoned, the faxers were misguided about our new area code and did not know where to send their misrouted calls.

We considered it one good thing to come out of the new 9-7-3 area code shuffle. Now they could bother someone else with those errant Connecticut calls.

It almost seemed like the night belonged to us. The threat of a new area code silenced the midnight callers and that was the end of it.

But as if you had to wonder, the faxes began again, only this time the fax messages were arriving during the early afternoon.

When we first rush in to see the many messages lights flashing, we think it might be Ed McMahon calling with some good news, such as Dick Clark is getting too old and they are ready for my walk-on. But this was not the case.

Successive playback of the various messages showed "Boop-boop" messages every five minutes throughout the tape.

In fact, there was not a real message from a human on the entire cassette.

Perhaps the humans trying to reach me simply got a busy signal each time they called.

For better or worse, the fax machines are not easily discouraged by something as lowly as a busy signal or the fact that there is no other fax machine at the other end to beep back and forth with.

They call back over and over and over to call out to their beloved fax machine, “Boop-boop” until the message tape runs out.

We were caught in a technological gridlock.

We could disarm our answering machine and use our computer fax to receive the incoming faxes.

That would not help anyone, McMahon or Clark, trying to leave an important message, unless they decided to fax it to us.

Then if we got a fax instead of an important message, we could never be sure if it was the mysterious fax we were trying to identify, or just a friend who had figured out our code to get a message to us.

We were wondering how our ancestors put up with errant fax machine calls in their day.

How on earth did our grandparents tolerate coded messages on their answering machines back in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s?

Those folks had the pioneer spirit.

If anyone would have known how to deal with the errant fax call or answering machines gone awry, our grandparents would have come up with a solution.

For some reason, our grandparents never taught us how to deal with the wonders of wizardry buzzing through a wall near you.

After all, it was in our grandparents’ generation that someone in his dreams while he hit the hay invented both Donald Duck and the X-ray. And that’s the facts, Jack.

First published in Rambling Round, Oct. 2, 1997, in The Independent Press of Bloomfield, Worrall Community Newspapers.

Adapted from RAMBLING ROUND  Inside and Outside at the Same Time

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