Man Asserts Individualism With Pithy Voicemail Message

Ben Johanson, employee of Belmont Advertising, 26, made clear his uniqueness in a world of homogenous worship of the status quo by putting a "controversial" greeting on his voicemail that's raising the eyebrows of many close to him.

Tired of the usual formula, Johanson fearlessly created out of nothingness a greeting that set him apart from the rest of the common hordes, which he hopes will stand as a beacon of his rejection of stuffy social mores and censorship.

"I was just so sick of the formulaic and boring greetings that everyone uses," proclaimed the provocative auteur. "All that 'Hi, this is so-and-so. I'm either on the phone or away from my desk right now'– no shit – 'so if you'll leave your name and number, I'll call you back as soon as possible' shit is so derivative. This world needs something to shock it out of its bombinating routine."

Johanson produced his phone from his hip-holster and shared with reporters the greeting that he claims will become the new standard for messages: "Hi, this is Ben, but you already know that or you wouldn't be calling. You know the drill."

The pithy message was followed by an uncomfortable three second silence before the beep, which he hopes will provide each caller with a few precious seconds of self-realization before speaking, although many callers seem to be put off by what Johanson refers to as "the greeting being a little too real for them".

"Uh...Ben?" said one caller tentatively. "Is everything okay?"

" -- and I thought you might like to know," said another, erroneously believing that the self-realization time was part of their allotted message space. "Oh, wait. It just beeped. Wait."

The message on his cell phone is not the only advance that Johanson has made in the field of telecommunication performance art; his "church-bell" cell phone ring tone and home answering machine message ("This is Ben's message leave one. End.") are also part of his grand vision.

"I started dabbling in the medium when I was in college," recounted Johanson. "The first time I remember experimenting with the different ways to express my individuality through telecommunications was when I put the Beastie Boys song 'So Whatcha Want' on the recorder, followed only by a stark, shrill beep, which was meant to suggest, 'Now it's your turn.' That was really my first breakout work on the scene."

Other famous works include erupts from "Pulp Fiction", "Pink Flamingos" and the artist's own voice tersely compelling the caller to "testify."

Friends say Johanson's older works represent a frustrated artist lashing out at the world around him, trying to find his vision.

"He was still finding his voice in those days," said friend and roommate Jake Wallace, "but now I think he's working his way towards a masterpiece. This new greeting just might be it."

Wallace also told reporters, "My medium is more in leaving messages than in prompting callers to leave their own, which is a completely different but equally nouveau art form," adding that he thinks of himself as "the yin to Ben's yang."

The world at large, however, has yet to catch up to the advances that Johanson and Wallace are making, suggesting the pair's statements are still a little too "out there" for mainstream society to accept.

"His message says what?" said Johnason's supervisor Greg Manning, frowning. "Well, I'll be speaking him to him about that first thing Monday morning. That and his screen-saver message ["The secret to creativity is to hide your sources"] are just no good."

"There is no place in the workplace for that kind of progressivism," added Manning, who Johanson refers to as "The Philistine".

Johanson claimed further that his individuality is on display in the anti-Bush bumper stickers that adorn his Ford Taurus and the occasional Picasso-tie he will wear to work when "People need to be shocked out of their zombified habits."

"I try to test the system in lots of ways," he said. "My answering machine art will always be my main focus, though."

Just then, a call came in, which Johanson deliberately screened to allow the machine to spring to life.

"What the hell?" came a gruff voice. "Ben, this is your father. Are you doing drugs again? I'm telling your mother. Call us, for God's sake."

"Just too real," Johanson said with a smile, shaking his head slowly. "Just a little too real."

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