What I did on my summer vacation:

I was a telephone answering service. Only people who have children between the ages of 14 and 30 will appreciate what an important function I performed.

I always started after dinner as soon as my daughter Jennifer asked, "Can I use the car?"

"What time will you be back?" I asked.

"Not late. If Debbie calls tell her I went with Tony over to Mike's, and if she doesn't get us there we'll be at David Crohan's Bar in Oak Bluffs."

"I gotcha," I said, writing it down.

Half an hour later the phone rang. "Is Jenny there?"

"Is this Debbie?" I asked.

"No, it's Sarah. And she was supposed to meet me at the Cafe du Port in Vineyard Haven," she said.

"Well, she went with Tony over to Mike's."

"Which Mike?"

"She didn't say which Mike. Is there more than one?"

"There are three. If she calls back tell her I went to the party at Ben's."

"The party at Ben's. I've got it."

Fifteen minutes later the phone rang again. It was Ben who wanted to tell Jenny about the party.

I explained that she was with Tony at Mike's, but was going to David Crohan's Bar.

"Well, if Angel calls," Ben said, "Tell him I need ice and wine."

"Why would Angel call?" I asked.

"To find out where Tony went."

"I gotcha," I said, writing it down. "Tell Jenny about your party and Angel about bringing ice and wine. Do you have any message for Debbie?"

"Who's Debbie?" Ben said.

"I don't know, but she's supposed to call Jenny and I'm to tell her she's with Tony and they went over to Mike's and then they're to David Crohan's Bar."

"Well, don't tell Debbie about the party because I don't know how many people will be with her."

"My lips are sealed," I promised.

I got into a hot tub when the phone rang again.

The party on the other end asked for Jenny.

"Who's calling?"

"Gordon Manning."

"You can find her at Mike's, David Crohan's Bar or Ben's party, depending how lucky you are."

"I'm calling from New Hampshire."

"That's too bad. There're lots of great things going on here," I told him.

"Well, will you tell Jenny I'm coming down on Tuesday and ask her to leave my beach pass with Ellen in Edgartown? But tell her not to tell Betsy I'm coming. You got that?"

"Of course I've got it. You think I'm a dummy? Listen, I have to get off the phone because I'm expecting a call from either Debbie or Angel or the Police in Chilmark depending how lucky I am."

I started to worry about why Debbie or Angel hadn't called. I was watching Johnny Carson when the phone rang again.

It was Jenny. "We didn't go to David Crohan's. We're at the Phillips' in Lambert's Cove."

"Now you tell me," I said angrily. "Everybody's trying to find you with the exception of Debbie, who never called."

"She's with us," Jenny replied.

"And where the hell's Angel?" I wanted to know.

"He went back to Boston."

"Do you realize Ben was counting on him to bring the ice and wine to his party? Why didn't you call me?"

"I couldn't get at a phone. Who else called?"

"Naval headquarters. They told me to tell you to report back to your ship immediately."

"Dad, are you drunk?"

"Not yet, but by the time you get home I will be."