I have an irrational fear. (Is there something called rational fear? We will leave that question to qualified people like shrinks whose major qualifications are owning a couch and a facial expression described as sympathetic. The really good ones also have this ability to grunt while sleeping with their eyes open.)
The fear, or phobia as some shrink would describe it if he (or she) were awake, is that of leaving messages on answering machines and on voice mail boxes.
The sound of a friend's voice, albeit with a slight electronic twang, saying, "Hi, we are sorry we cannot answer the phone now but do leave a message after the beep and we will get back to you soon", makes my tonsils bloat up, gives me a running cold and blocks my sinuses. No, it doesn't. But the effect is the same: I lose my voice. I hear the beep and sooner or later hang up. I stopped doing that a couple of months ago when a woman friend told me that she gets these calls on and off, where the caller just leaves the sound of his heavy breathing on her answering machine. I suggested that he might have a cold but she insisted that she was getting caller identification to trap this 'stalker'. Since then I hang up before the ominous beep.
After hanging up I usually wonder what is it that my friend and his or her spouse are doing at this time of the day that would stop them from coming to the phone. If it is a client, I wonder if he has an attractive secretary. But since you didn't provide your age proof and credit card details when you logged onto this site I can't share those thoughts with you.
There are nights when I dream of answering machines and voice mail boxes chasing me through endless and dark corridors and I wake up, you guessed it, with my mouth open and no scream coming out of it. Sometimes I doze off during the day and imagine scenarios like these:
A typical conversation with an answering machine in my nightmare, or day-mare since this happens during siesta:
Hi! This is Deven.
I just called to say that I was wondering if we could push today's meeting by an hour?
What do you say?
Why don't you say something?
Why don't you ever talk to me?
Have I done something wrong? Have I hurt you in some way?
What is it?
Are you seeing someone? Are you! I am sure you are! Oh, you are so predictable... All I have to do is be late a few times and there you go...
Whirr... Khrrr... (Sound of tape running out.)
Then there are days when I read books like, 'Interpretation of Dreams' and come up with dumb theories to explain my phobia:
The machine beeps. I leave a message. The answering machine owner doesn't retrieve the message and my voice remains trapped in there forever. I, of course, roam the earth voiceless and dumber than I am now - for the rest of my life, waiting for my voice to be released.
Last week I decided to confront my fear. I said to myself, "This can't go on forever". I admitted to myself that my fear was not only irrational but it was also absurd and it was time I took drastic steps to cure myself. So yesterday I mustered my courage, checked my bank balance and called a shrink for an appointment:
I got his answering machine.
I got his answering machine.