In Douglas Adams’ “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency”, there is an answering machine with an outgoing message that said something along the lines of “You’ve reached the phone of Susan Way. Please leave a message and she’ll get back to you… Maybe.”

I always liked that message and used it, changing the name of course, when we got an answering machine.

As we moved to cell phones, I rerecorded the message on new devices with the ambiguous promise of a returned call.

After a few years, my employer offered to take over my cell phone and pay for its upkeep. I gladly accepted. A few more years later, one of my managers noticed the outgoing message and suggested that the message didn’t convey the appropriate degree of professionalism that our employers have come to expect.

I had to admit that he had a point.

I rerecorded the message with the same text but I replaced the “maybe” with a pregnant pause. Folks who’d come to know and love the old message can still hear the “maybe” in the pregnant pause at the end of the message. Still, it felt like the end of an era.

All is not lost, though. Family members have put the “maybe” message on their own phones, keeping up the tradition of leaving callers wondering if they’ll get a call back.

Doug’s legacy lives on. 

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