Everybody Has a Story: Phone message takes sour turn

By Tom Tangen, Hearthwood Published: May 22, 2022, 6:02am

A couple of days ago I heard a song that I had not heard in decades. It is a beautiful song, but it reminded me of a very embarrassing moment in my life. The song was “Guantanamera,” which is a Spanish word for a female from Guantanamo, Cuba. In 1966 it was a huge hit for a group named The Sandpipers. Fast forward 15 or so years from 1966. A friend of mine and I would regularly get together, do stupid stuff and think that we were really cool. One day my friend told me that he was going to pick up his mom, and they were going to drive up to the family cabin to work on it for four or five days. He would call me when he got back. I had a brilliant idea. Knowing that he wasn’t there, I would call my friend’s phone and talk on his answering machine until I filled up the tape. When he got home, he would have to listen to the whole tape in case there were any important messages on it.

Better yet, rather than talk, I would sing “Guantanamera.” And better still, I would substitute my own lyrics for some in the song. So I called his phone, singing the song with all the gusto and passion I could muster. I think I had to sing the song three times before I heard the message machine state that the machine was full. I hung up the phone, chuckling with the knowledge that my sharp wit ranked alongside that of Dorothy Parker and Evelyn Waugh. Now I have no doubt that if a survey about my “Guantanamera” was done, a strong 3 percent of the reviewers would call it funny and clever. But I also have no doubt that the other 97 percent would call it very stupid and borderline obscene. Knowing that his family cabin did not have a phone, I was surprised a few hours later to receive a phone call from my friend. I will recap what my very unhappy friend told me.

After picking up his mom they drove around to a number of stores, picking up supplies for the work they needed to do. After they got everything, she told him that she was expecting an important call. She did not want them to have to drive back to her place. Since my friend’s apartment was on the way to their cabin, the message would be left on his phone. That’s right, my friend’s mom listened to 10 minutes of my crooning. On the plus side, our two families had been neighbors for years. My friend and I were in the same grade, often in the same class, and went through Boy Scouts together. So his mom already knew that I was an idiot. On the negative side, for the next few years, whenever my friend and I planned to do something where I would pick him up, I would always have to say, “Uhhh, your mom won’t be there, right?” Everybody Has a Story welcomes nonfiction contributions, 1,000 words maximum, and relevant photographs. Send to: neighbors@columbian.com or P.O. Box 180, Vancouver WA, 98666. Call “Everybody Has an Editor” Scott Hewitt, 360-735-4525, with questions.

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