We were chatting at the Nation’s round table the other day, al fresco, and the non linear narrative jumped to odd phone calls, perhaps because someone’s phone pinged or ponged and a sales person was ice cold calling to sell storm window replacements. That might have been me. I mistakenly called a company two or three years ago about adding storm windows to my existing Pella double-paned babies. Well, I’ve had calls from Philadelphia and Reading and Harrisburg on my cell phone since then, trying to entice me to buy those damn windows I wish I’d never told anyone about to begin with. I’m pretty sure that some of my blogoysters have had similar experiences.
Steve offered his weird phone interaction. His wife answered the phone one night and handed it to him, “It must be for you, Steve, cuz it’s not for me.”
“I said hello and the woman on the other end began to tell me about a personal problem she was experiencing with her husband.”
“He’s been drinking again and running after strange women. I can’t take it. I just can’t do this anymore”, she complained.
Steve asked her, “What would you like me to do about it?”
That’s when she gave critical information away. “Well, Pastor Steve, what is your position on divorce?”
Rather than relinquish his newfound authority, Steve hung on the phone with this hap less woman. “I think it depends on the circumstances. Certainly you have a case for adultery here.”
The desperately confused woman, whose name Steve never obtained, thanked him and told him she’d see him in church Sunday.
Steve said good bye and handed the phone back to his wife. “Who was that?” she asked.
“I don’t know. It was a woman who thought I was her pastor.”
“And you didn’t tell her you weren’t? Oh my gosh, what did you tell her?”
“She never gave me the chance. She needed advice on divorce, so I told her what I thought.”
“But she thought you were her pastor!”
“She never asked for proof. You get what you pay for.”
What you don’t know may not hurt you, I guess. Oh the cruel obscurity of truisms.
I recall when my oldest child was our only one. She would have been two or three years old. We dialed, yes I typed dialed, what we thought was my mother’s phone number, but at least one digit was incorrect. We put baby Erin directly on the phone without confirming that the voice we believed was Grandma’s actually was Grandma. After a couple of partial toddler comments, my wife got on and discovered that the voice on the other end was not my mother’s but belonged to someone else’s mother. My wife began to apologize, but the elderly lady on the other end would have none of it. “Your little girl made my day. She is so sweet. Thank you. She can call me any time.”
Oh well, serendipity, I guess.
There was another time when a collections agent kept calling my house looking for someone by the same name. Imagine that– another Burrito K. Special!! He had even graduated from the same university. However, he lived in Erie, PA from what I could cobble together. When I finally got that through the idiot collector’s head, he finally stopped calling and demanding that I pay for something I knew nothing about. No apology for the tough talk and claims that I was treating him like an idiot, which he was. No, instead he said something like, “I thought it was a weird phone number for Erie.” This was before cell phones, mind you, when you were tied to your kitchen phone with the twisty cord while kids were talking and the wife was making dinner noises.
Then there was Leroy from Detroit. He had my number somehow confused with one of his homey buddies from GM, I think. I’d check my answering machine back in the day, and it would be Leroy telling me something I could not comprehend. He was friendly and half drunk each time. Then one day I picked up the phone and Leroy was on the line. He started to say “I’m sorry, man, I must have the wrong number…”, when I said, “Is this Leroy?”
“Yeah, how’d you know my name.”
“You’ve been leaving me wrong messages on my answering machine for the past two months, so I feel like I know you.”
“Oh, man, I’m sorry. I was wondering why you weren’t calling me back.”
“Well, two reasons Leroy. First, you didn’t leave your number. Second, I don’t know who you are.”
We had a good laugh and parted ways.
Of course old technology was helpful back when we were bored kids and it was too hot outside to do much playing. We’d pick up the phone in the kitchen, all phones were installed in kitchens then, and call up the drug store.
“Ring, ring, ring.”
“Hello, this is Drug Fair. How can I help you?”
Muffled deep voice, “Do you have Prince Albert in the can?”
“Yes, sir, we do.”
Unmuffled, “Well, you’d better let him out.”
“You stupid kids better stop this….” Click.
Simple tricks for simple minds in simpler times.
“Ring, ring, ring.”
“Yes Ma’am. Bob Jones from Pepco. Is your refrigerator running?”
“Uh, give me second… yes it is.”
“Well, you’d better go catch it.”
“Darn kids. Where are your parents?”
“They’re tied to the kitchen chairs, Momma.”
Accomplice’s high pitched voice, “Help, I’m tied up to the kitchen chair. Heelllp!!”
“Well you oughta be ashamed of yourselves. Hoodlums!!”
We laughed guiltlessly.
Fast forward decades to today… a prank call comes in on my cell phone. It’s one of the guys from the coffee shop– 717. 532. 2771 plus his name and middle initial.
“Harrow, you got Prince Albert in can?”
“Doug, Mr. Gray Water, the whole point of a prank call is the element of surprise, which is lost when caller I.D. tags your incoming smart phone.”
“Wow! I just wanted to know if you’d like to purchase storm windows.”
“Hey, this is not my first phone rodeo.”