Friday, May 22, 2020

Looking For Nancy

One of the most memorable openings in TV crime series was The Rockford Files.  Do you remember it ?


There was always a message on the answering machine. The writers had to come up with a different one every week. It became a phenomenon for a while. What was the new fangled machine going to come up with next. You can listen to them all on You tube, all 127 of them so there must be a genuine fanzone out there, liking  the voicemail … before voicemail.


Here are two often quoted ones, both from the first series.

“It’s Norma at the market. It bounced. You want me to tear it up, send it back, or put it with the others?”

And in the days when the answering machine was so expensive, it was rented…

‘This is the message phone company. I see you’re using our unit, now how about paying for it?”

I think the answering machine, like the mobile phone is both monumental to the well being of 

humanity and a total and  unbelievable pain in the gluteal area.  


There are outgoing messages you can  use, written by somebody who should know better, probably got the sack from the greeting  card company.

Roses are Roses are red, some willows weep, please leave your message, after the beep

            We might be in, we might be out, but leave a message and you might find out!

Twinkle, Twinkle little star, bet your wondering where we are? Well, put your mouth up to the phone And leave us a message for when we get home. And if you can make your message rhyme, We'll call you back in half the time!!!!!

Now I lay me down to sleep; Leave a message at the beep. If I should die before I wake, remember to erase the tape.

Roses are red booger's are green please leave your message on this stupid machine.

You are dazed, bewildered, trapped in a world with no time, where color collides with sound, and shadows explode. You see a sign up ahead. This is no ordinary answering device; this is "The Twilight Phone"

            Hello. This is Caro’s answering machine, Marvin, and I'm so depressed. I have 50,000 times the memory capacity of my owner, but all I get to do is answer the phone. Life. Don't talk to me about life. Just leave your name and number after the beep. Here comes the beep, how I hate that beep, it's so cheery.

Our business is normally open 7 days a week, four of them for 12 hour days so we don’t rely  heavily on the machine. Most of the early morning messages left are  people cancelling because they have been called into work unexpectedly.

During lockdown ,  the machine has  been doing its best. We have been dialling in twice a day to pick up messages, and then spend the rest of the day trying to work out who ‘Nancy’ is.

The main bulk of all calls are from the elderly looking for the chiropodists . There’s a very distinct divide, younger patients will email in, but the chiropody/podiatry  patients tends to be an older demographic , less techy savvy, slightly hard of hearing and can be immediately distrustful of the machine. The podiatrists were also key workers so that communication  line had to be kept clear. 

It took a long time to get the ongoing message right but we went with ;

‘Thank you for calling. Due to the current situation, we are closed for normal business so please listen carefully.  If you are wanting to speak to a podiatrist  please say Marie, or Lorna, your name and your phone number, and they will call you back as soon as possible.’

It was quite clear I thought, that first line. We are closed.

The amount of times the  response has been, ‘So if there anybody there. Are you open?’ When are you opening? I need my nails cut.’

But 90% of the time it was fine. The other 10% was detective work.

There was usually two  messages a day at the start of lockdown,  each day that passed the number grew.   Probably as the toenails  continue to grow. And it’s an interesting  medical point that the professional association allowed them to cut  nails on diabetics,  but not on those who were blind.   And then there’s the man who did try to cut his toenails and ended up calling an ambulance due to the bleeding.

So here are some of the highlights.

'Hi, it’s Nancy here can you call me back.’

‘Is there anybody there. It’s Jimmy here, are you in. Or not?’

‘I don’t think they are in Elsie.’

‘I’ve a drip coming through ma ceiling,  what are you going to do about it . XX wardrobe street, paisley Thank you .’

‘Hi, it’s  Nancy. I phoned earlier,  can you call me back please.’

‘Hi, it’s me,  my foot is still really sore , and I can’t get out for my hours exercise so can you tell me what to do.’

‘Look love, I’ve already phoned and it’s  still dripping,  XX wardrope street Paisley.’

‘Betty? Its one of those machines , what am I supposed to do  now?’

‘Woof. Woof. That dog has just stood on my phone again.’


‘ I need to pick up my prescription of Viagra.  Is it ready?’

‘Hi,  do you do Viagra? When are you open?’

‘Taxi  to Ralston please?’

‘Hi, it’s Brian and I need to speak to Lorna about my feet. Both of them.’

‘Hi, I’ve an emergency appt with Lorna today but my  temperature is high so I’ve to go to the airport for a covid test so I’ll be a bit late for my appointment. Is that ok?’

‘Look mate,  this water is pouring through my ceiling,  I’m going  to papers if you don’t do something about it.’

‘This is Nancy. I called yesterday. Can you call me back as soon as possible?’

‘ I think they are closed just now….. aye….. have you left that door pen….. I think the cat’s 
 gone out…. Billy gonnie you go and get that cat …. Oh I’ll  do it myself then…..sounds of footsteps, and phone clicks off.

‘Hi, it’s  Jimmy, is Carole there? Give me a  wee call. Cheers.’


It’s hard to describe the machinations we put our appointment system through.  And then the games of telephone tag.  Data protection means the receptionist can only do so much, the therapist needs to have a search through the hundreds of Nancys we have on file. Was this one on recently. Is she new? Does she think we are psychic? Or is she one of the many Nancys whose real name is Agnes, or vice versa. One name on the phone, one name on the file.

We still haven’t tracked down Nancy.

And that’s nothing to the telephone tag that goes on when we call them on the landline and they berate us via mobile.

 We did track down the poor man with the water ingress and told him that he was looking for the plumber, a phone number one digit different to ours.  Once we got through  him  shouting at us from  taking our time to get back to us.

 I have no idea who that Jimmy is. And the other man’s test was positive and he  was still happy to come in as he was  heading home to isolate and his  feet were hurting now so he’d be in agony  by the end of it.

And I have no idea why that man wanted Viagra. Well I do know why. But why he thought  we have any is beyond me.

Caro Ramsay


  1. I'm very impressed you go through all this stuff and write it down and respond. Particularly to the gentleman on Paisley Street.

    1. it's a common occurrence for our receptionist to sit on the end of a rant about bad plumbing before getting a word in to say 'wrong number, you need 8461 not 8416' and the caller still insists that we sent out a plumber..... caro

  2. What you couldn't have helped that poor man by stealing a little Viagra from Alan's supply??? (Forgive me if I got your hubby's name wrong, I'm doing my best under isolating circumstances.)

    1. sometimes they do say Viagra during a case history when they mean volterol....

  3. Maybe you could change the message to end: "...and if this is Nancy, PLEASE leave your last name."

  4. As yet, Nancy has not been located but as we will be in the building on Thursday, we might just change the message. I bet it's not even for us.....