Journal entry: November 19, 1990 (age 21)
There’s a sense of exhilaration when a college freshman gets his own phone line and his own answering machine. (The typical female has had a separate phone line in her bedroom since she was 13.) No more boring outgoing message made by one of your parents. By recording your own voice and sensibility, you are spreading your wings in a glorious burst of creativity. Of course, that burst of creativity will soon be crushed under the collective heel of prospective employers who got your number from your resume and aren’t impressed with your impersonation of Don Knotts singing “U Can’t Touch This.” (“Break it down, Aunt Bee, it’s Barney Time!”)
But that seriousness of purpose can wait, at least until my graduation from SUNY Oswego next May. When I was assigned my first roommate back in the fall of ‘87, I lucked out when I was paired with Danny Walker, who has become one of my very best friends. How many students stay roommates with the same randomly assigned person for four years? A shared sense of humor has helped, and during that time, Danny and I have spent an inordinate amount of time recording and re-recording our idiosyncratic telephone greetings. A personal favorite paired the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” with our voiceover: “Tim and Dan are at Studio 54. So whether you’re a brother or whether you’re another, leave a message.” It may not have been funny, but the production values were impeccable. Only one of our messages has prompted enough positive response to be brought back more than once. This is the third November in a row that our answering machine message has been nothing but 20 seconds of us making high-pitched turkey gobbles.
Tomorrow is our last day of classes before Thanksgiving break, so the mood was a little goofy as I walked to dinner with Danny and Rich “Sugar” Kane, another friend who lives in our 6-man dorm suite. (I don’t feel comfortable referring to Rich as my “suitemate,” but evidently, I’m fine with being the only person who calls him “Sugar.”) We live in Onondaga Hall, which is connected to the Littlepage Dining Hall by a long, underground tunnel. Said tunnel has a very distinct echo, so you can often hear the conversations of people far behind or ahead of you. However, a few angled turns mean that you can only see those people for part of the journey.
As the three of us walked to the dining hall, we decided to make use of the tunnel’s odd auditory properties. First, we silently waited as a group of girls walked past us, down the first long leg of tunnel, and around the first corner. A few second later, we followed, making very loud, rapid-fire turkey gobbles. Rich’s voice was a fine addition to Danny’s and mine, turning our duet into a concerto for tryptophan lovers. His basso profundo gobble interwove with the harmonic consonance of our higher-pitched parts, producing a polyphonous poultry pastorale. As we rounded the corner, our gobbles ceased as suddenly as they had begun. The co-ed chickies, now pointing and laughing, were not as far ahead as they had been. We slowed down, marching in stone-faced silence. When the giggling gaggle veered out of sight once more, we pursued them in song, metaphorically offering our giblets…and our thanks.