Telephones and answering machines are a crucial form of both communication and miscommunication in the novel: though people use the telephone to connect and to relay information, often, the telephone can become a source of missed connections. Oskar
hides the telephone on which Dad
had left the five voice messages from September 11, 2001. Those five messages form the final link that Oskar has to his Dad’s voice. Oskar confesses that he was in the apartment when the phone rang the fifth time, and although he listened to the machine record the message, he was too afraid to pick up the phone. When Grandpa returns to America just before September 11, he cannot speak, but nevertheless calls Grandma
; he tries to press the numbers on the telephone to communicate in some combination of Morse code and alphabetic transcription, but all that Grandma can hear is beeps, and on the page is a seemingly random block of numbers. Abby Black
left Oskar a message that would have allowed Oskar to finish his expedition eight months before he does, but Oskar didn’t listen to the message until eight months after she left it. However, telephones also work to connect people. Mom
made the connection with Abby and found out about Oskar’s whole quest because she picked up the phone halfway through Abby’s voicemail. Oskar’s missed connection allowed Mom to make a connection with Oskar’s expedition. Oskar and his grandmother speak via walkie-talkie, a rudimentary telephone. The lovers in the story of the Sixth Borough communicate through tin-can telephone for as long as possible, and the boy stores the girl’s voice in a tin can like an answering machine.