In 2008, I stayed at the Howard Johnson in Springfield, Pennsylvania. I had a bad experience there; the card-key reader on the door of my room stopped working in the middle of the night (so I was locked out of my room), and the staff couldn’t do anything to fix it, and the owner handled it poorly when he eventually arrived in the morning.
After I got home from that trip, I got a phone call from the owner (at least I think it was the owner); he left a message on my voicemail.
And the whole experience had been so stressful that I couldn’t bring myself to even listen to the message. I figured that it could have been the apology that the owner hadn’t given me in person, or it could have been him continuing to be annoying. And I figured that some day I would listen to the message, but I couldn’t cope just then.
So I left the message on my answering machine.
Over the past 11 years, I accumulated some other messages that I never deleted, though I did listen to those. One, for example, was an unfamiliar voice that just said “Jedediah” and then hung up. A couple were from organizations that I donate money to, expressing interest in getting to know me better. And so on.
So I’ve lately had a total of 6 messages on my answering machine that I never delete, most of which had been there for years.
Earlier this week, I re-listened to the five that weren’t from the HoJo guy, and I decided that I really didn’t need to keep them any more, and I deleted them.
And then a day or two later, I took a deep breath and finally listened to the HoJo message.
It turned out that the guy was just leaving me his phone number and asking me to call him.
So I deleted that one too, and now I’m at answering-machine-message zero for the first time in a little over eleven years.
Having that message sitting on my answering machine hasn’t been a big source of stress in the past few years, but I think it has been a tiny one. It’s a relief to have gotten rid of it.