A Very Odd Technical Problem

by NJB // // Broomfield, CO

© 2023 Nantucket E-Books LLC

CC-BY-SA 4.0

Back in September, I decided to try a minimalist phone, something just for calls and text messages. I went with the Punkt MP02, because unlike the flip phones at the AT&T store, it was completely de-Googled. No apps, no Google, no camera, just calls, texts, and some alarm settings. The MP02 is easy to use for wi-fi tethering, something I need at work.

Like a lot of things in life, it worked well, until it didn’t. The software on the MP02 has some troublesome quirks, but yesterday it became unusable: calls would drop after two seconds, and no-one could hear me. I couldn’t receive calls, either.

I went to the AT&T store to see if there was something wrong with my plan or SIM card. No luck, it was a problem with my phone’s hardware, software, or both. With my head hung low, I bought the cheapest AT&T flip phone at the store.

That’s when the real problems began.

I called my parents in the parking lot, and my mom told me they had tried calling me a couple times, but a “strange man” had answered. The man didn’t respond to them when asked questions.

The idea that my phone number was mixed up with a “stranger”, strange in the truest sense, was upsetting, but I figured having a new, working phone would help.

The next day, I had my phone off for a while, and when I turned it on to call my parents, they said the same strange man who sounded “mentally challenged” had answered when they’d tried to call me.

Now I was worried. Somehow my lines were crossed with some guy. My bosses sometimes call my personal cell, I can’t have them talking to some weirdo.

After work, I drove to the AT&T store and explained my problem. The best answer they could offer was that some glitch had occured, and that it would resolve itself once I had my new phone for a while.

I called my friends and asked them to call me, to see if it happened again. FrogBomb, a longtime patron of Nantucket E-Books, called me, but said my voicemail message was weird. He said it “sounded like Meatwad.”

If this had been the movies, it would have been one of those shots where the background raced away from me. “It can’t be…” I thought. I went into Macys and asked to use their phone, dialing my number. I let it go to voicemail, and heard something I hadn’t thought about in twenty years.

There used to be a TV show called Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Each episode was only fifteen minutes long, and it was about fast-food items that solved crimes. Actually, they didn’t even solve crimes, they stop being detectives in the first season. It was one of the longest-running shows on Cartoon Network, and I’m a big fan. I was such a big fan that I mailed some of my fan art to Cartoon Network in Atlanta, and they put it on the Season Four DVD. Sharing your love of ATHF is tough, though, because when you try to explain the show to people, they don’t believe you. The show sounds insane, because it is.

When I was a kid, I owned the first few seasons on DVD. The Season 3 DVD of Aqua Teen Hunger Force had these audio recordings you could put on your answering machine, like one of the characters would say “Hey, I can’t come to the phone right now…” One of these gag messages was from the character Meatwad, who is literally a naive, slow-witted ball of ground meat.

You can listen to the original messages by clicking here.

Well, twenty years ago, a teen in Lafayette, Colorado thought it would be hilarious to use one of those messages, and put it on his phone. What he quickly realized was that Aqua Teens is a very niche fandom, and people who heard the message were more likely to be confused than amused. He deleted the gag message and forgot about it.

Twenty years later, that audio recording from Aqua Teen Hunger Force somehow became my default voicemail message again.

I went back to the AT&T store and learned how to change my voicemail message back to a generic playback of my phone number.

It boggles my mind that this audio recording was stored on an AT&T server for the past twenty years. I’m left with an even more ominous question:

What else from our lives is out there that we don’t even know about?

  • Kris: What an odd occurrence, and that they would have even still kept that.

    Makes me realize that I havent heard my own voicemail recording in probably a decade or more, an interesting thought.


    OP: Yes, your voicemail greeting is something you rarely think about.