Calls have been coming in, about a dozen a day, to the original phone number for the old Apology Line. 212-255-2748 was the first and, for most of Apology’s run, the only phone number for the line. I acquired it about a year ago, feeling like I’d pulled off some kind of a heist, though I procured it fair and square.
Calls are coming from people who listened to a new Apology podcast.
When the calls first started coming in they forwarded to my Skype number, where they connected to a call recorder. It’s not answering machine software. It just records all incoming and outgoing calls. There was no outgoing message. Callers just heard silence. Most hung up but a few asked questions in the spirit of “Is this thing on?”
I did not intend or desire to field calls like this but for the hell of it I started answering. Even with me saying “Hello” most people hung up. It remains unclear to me what people expect to hear when they call this number they know to have been disconnected from Apology 25 years ago.
I finally got someone to engage in conversation. Instead of saying “Hello” I asked “Are you looking for Apology?” The caller seemed startled but I managed to keep him on the line long enough to explain my connection to Apology through my direct involvement with it in 1993 and 1994. I picked up 212-255-2748 when I could as a tribute of sorts to Apology and its influence on me, in the spirit of turning it once again into a place for telephone art.
This caller asked me if Apology “broke” Allan. Did listening to statements from the darkest sides of humanity for 15 years lead to his undoing?
I remembered Allan’s chagrin at how he still referred to Apology as a “project.” A project is a work in progress, and his continued use of that term reflected, as he put it, the unfinished nature of his work, and the lack of a truly defining moment.
I thought later that being the custodian of so many dark souls must have been frustrating in a way, for he had no authority to grant absolution or forgiveness, only sympathy (at best) and access to feedback of volunteers.
But then Allan was atheist, so the Christian tenets of penance and forgiveness might not have been in his vocabulary.
I don’t know what his attitudes were in the end but when I knew him his attitudes about the calls could almost be described as happy-go-lucky. He took some more seriously than others but, I think, considered himself lucky to have been the recipient of so much free content that became his copyrighted property.
Today if you call 212-255-2748 you hear, after a brief introduction, Payphone Radio. I’m working to change that and turn the space into a more elaborate sound space. Whatever I end up doing with that phone number will be, as Apology always was, a work in progress.
What’s interesting about the current round of calls is that some callers are checking in three or four times a day. I guess they think they found something. One call came from South Africa but most seem to be from the United States.