Our Town – November 20, 2014

The Soupster discusses No Tax Day and solves the mystery of a recurring voice.

The Soupster discusses No Tax Day and solves the mystery of a recurring voice.

“Why is it such a pleasure,” asked Sue, strolling downtown alongside the Soupster. “To shop on a tax-free day?”

She and the Soupster each toted several plastic bags emblazoned with the logos of Our Town merchants. Sue swung her bags happily on the crowded sidewalk, and one shopper had to make a last-minute correction to avoid being bopped.

“I know what you mean,” said the Soupster, steering Sue safely by a “Clothing Specials Galore” sign outside a woman’s shop. “The sales tax is only 5 percent. Yet it feels so good to avoid paying it.”

“I mean, if a store offered a “5 percent off” sale, I wouldn’t even get off my duff,” Sue said. “Nothing below 20 percent off even gets my attention. Yet here I am grabbing stuff like crazy.”

“What makes our `tax-phobia’ even stranger is that we all benefit from the money we pay in taxes,” said the Soupster. “I mean nobody likes taxes. But in order for Our Town to function as an organized society, paying taxes is the way we’ve chosen to have people chip in for the common good. Snow plowing, school books, sanitation…”

“Got to have sanitation,” said Sue.

“Gotta have it,” the Soupster echoed. “Well, Sue, we solved that pesky tax question. What else is strange and wonderful in your life?”

“You want strange — how about this?” she asked. “I wanted to buy a bicycle, so I called three people who advertised in the newspaper. None of the three was home and I got their three answering machines.”

“What’s strange about that?” asked the Soupster.

“All three answering machines had the same voice,” said Sue. “Then I called another friend to tell him how spooked I was. His answering machine had exactly the same voice!”

This was a good mystery for the Soupster. Was there anybody offering narration services for answering machine messages in Our Town? Couldn’t be. Some very odd burglar? Probably not. Someone who lived in three different apartments and was selling bikes out of each of them? Impossible!

The Soupster groaned with the mental effort, then looked at the store nearby and a satisfied smile stretched across his face.

“Kind of official-sounding male’s voice?” the Soupster asked.. “Neutral accent?”.

“How did you know?” Sue asked.

“Mystery solved!” said the Soupster. He took Sue by the arm and turned her gently toward the window of the store, which sold electronics. “ 20 % Off — Answering Machine Sale Ends Today,” trumpeted a big banner.

“The bike-sellers all bought the same model answering machine,” he went on. “What you heard was the voice that came pre-recorded with that model of machine. Your friend must have bought a new machine, too.”

“I live for conundrums,” the Soupster said, mostly to himself..

“Now that’s really strange,” said a grinning Sue. “And kind of wonderful!”



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