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DANCING IN THE RAIN                    Jeannie Lancaster   

    In this day and age, it's hard to believe a person doesn't own an answering machine; my mother is that person. She has never really grasped the concept of the
answering machine. When she calls and leaves a message, it goes as follows: "Hello, anybody there? (This followed by a short pause.) Hello! It's me (which is
followed by a second short pause). Anybody? Alright! Don't pick up the phone! Well, if you're really not there, give me a call when you get in. Remember, I can
always change my will."
    To my mother, leaving a message is equivalent to a game of hide-and-seek when the kid looking chants, "Come out, come out, wherever you are." She's under
the impression we're all hiding from her, and she's got to smoke us out.
    Sometimes, her messages are longer than our conversations. The following is
an example of a typical conversation with my mother.
    Mother: "Hi. How are you?"
    Me: "I'm fine."
    Mother: "Still breathing?"
    Me: "Yes, still breathing."
    Mother: "Good, then you have nothing to complain about."
    Me: "No, I can't complain."
    Mother: "How's the family?"
    Me: "Everybody's fine."
    Mother: "Good. So, nobody can complain, can they? Good talking to you. Talk to you soon. Oh, one thing before I go. You may want to get that damn answering machine of yours fixed. The last time I called and started talking, nobody picked up. Find out what the problem is."
    Me: "I'll look into it."
    Should my mother have company, our two-minute conversation will be cut down to one, as I'll be resigned to chat with whoever's visiting at the time.
    Mother: "Your aunt's here. Want to talk to her? Of course, you do. Hold on. She answers her phone when I call, unlike some people."
    Just as I'm about to say, "Had I really wanted to talk to so-and-so I would call
them," my aunt gets on the line.
    Aunt Ann: "Hello, Cindy, how are you?"
    Me: "I'm fine."
    Aunt Ann: "Still breathing?"
    Me: "Yes, I'm still breathing."
    Aunt Ann: "Good, then you can't com ... hold on a second, Cindy, your mother's yelling at me. Oh, your mother says I have to hang up now as this is the second time she's called today. The first time she got the machine, and nobody picked up. Oh, Cindy, that's not good. You really should find out what the problem is and get it fixed."
    Me: "I'll look into it. Bye."
    As I bang my head against the wall, I think -- one phone call, double the aggravation.

To submit a story for future publication, send it to:
P.O. Box 30880-K, Santa Barbara, CA 93130
(From "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Positive")
Reprinted by permission of Jeannie Lancaster. (c)2010 Jeannie Lancaster.
(c)2010 Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen.
Distributed by King Features Syndicate.