Dan Rattiner's Stories

What Happens When You Press 2 for Urgent Delivery

Here is something very odd. I call somebody, the phone defaults to voicemail, which asks me to leave a message, and then, if I cough or say um too many times, it says it couldn’t hear what I had to say so please press 1 to keep recording, 2 to cancel or 3 to re-record, and when you are done press pound.

So I press 3, I leave my message a second time, I press pound, and it says the following:

“Press 1 for regular delivery. Press 2 for urgent delivery.”

I have never pressed 2. It scares me. What exactly is “urgent” with voicemail?

Yesterday, I decided to cough and say um and go through with having a message delivered urgently.

I didn’t want to bother anybody—maybe what would happen would be embarrassing, catching them in the bathroom or something—so I made the call to a second cellphone I have. I set it on the desk. I called it. It rang. It defaulted. And sure enough, when I finished, there was the message on its screen telling me someone had called.

This is, of course, a good way to find a lost phone, and something happy and then embarrassing happens at the end. You call, it rings, you find it under a chair, and there on the screen it says MISSED CALL. Somebody called you! You got a call! Oh, I did! But that’s another matter.

“Press t3 to re-record,” the message said, “and when you are finished press pound.”

I did that. I spoke clearly this time and told the voicemail that this was a test to see what would happen if I sent something urgent delivery. When I finished, there was silence for a moment, then the message spoke again.

“Press 1 for regular delivery. Press 2 for urgent delivery.”

And so, with a trembling finger, I pressed two.

About 30 seconds later, a motorcycle came noisily up my driveway. There was a knock on the door. I opened it, and there, with a Harley Davidson idling on its kickstand noisily behind him, was a well-dressed man in a military uniform. He wore a black helmet, black sunglasses, a tie, a khaki jacket with military patches on each shoulder and shiny black boots. Over his shoulder he had a black leather mailbag.

He opened the flap and took a silver clipboard out of the mailbag. On it was a piece of yellow paper with typing on it. He held it out, and then, from his breast pocket, produced a fountain pen.

“Is this your message?” he asked.

I read it and nodded.

“Sign here,” he said.

I signed.

“That will be 50 cents,” he said.

“There’s a charge?” I asked.

“Yes. For urgent delivery. You pressed 2.”

I reached into my pocket and handed him two quarters. And he reached into his mailbag once again, took out a roll of stamps, peeled one off, licked it and affixed it in the corner of the piece of paper.

With that, he put everything back into his mailbag, turned, hopped on his motorcycle, raced the engine, and in a cloud of exhaust was back down my driveway and gone.

I went back to my desk, put my other phone away and wondered what would happen next. Wow, was that weird.

Five minutes later, I once again heard, far away, the sound of the motorcycle. It got louder. Soon I could see out my window that he was coming up my driveway again. He knocked. I opened the door. He held out the clipboard, but then stopped.

“Oh, it’s you,” he said.

“Yes.”

He was silent for a moment. Then, he said, “Sign here, please.”

He held out the pen and clipboard. Now, the paper had something new, the big red word URGENT stamped on the top. And so, below the name I had signed five minutes earlier, I signed a second time. The man handed me the piece of paper, turned, and was off once again in a cloud of exhaust.

And that’s what happened. Cross my heart and hope to die.

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