This article was published in The Huffington Post on January 16, 2015.
When your phone number is one digit off from the local Walgreens phone number, you hang up on people a lot. And then you walk around your house kind of steaming mad about it, mumbling to yourself, with an edge that’s hard to shake. Take it from me: I’m an expert.
If I’ve hung up on you in recent months, since acquiring this new phone number of mine, I apologize. Let me take this moment here, in a public forum, to explain. It’s not that I want to be rude. It’s just that, when you call, I’m either:
a) Sleeping, because it is 7:00 am on Veteran’s Day when you call, chatting about your prescription, and I’m like “whahh?” You see, I have school-aged children, and there is no school on Veteran’s Day, which is a blessing from the military — thank you soldiers one and all; I respect and admire you. My father, uncle and father-in-law all served in Vietnam, and I love that I can honor you by sleeping late once a year. You see, I never ever get to sleep past 6:30 am anymore, due to a sadistic middle school schedule combined with the incredibly small bladder of the (very cute but annoyingly life-altering) puppy we just got. And I’m not what you’d call a morning person, so when you wake me up, you piss me off.
b) Just flushing and running for the phone, thinking that one of my children has been injured/maimed/lost/taken hostage while at school, because no one calls me at 11:00 am on a Wednesday except my mother, who I spoke to an hour ago and is now in her jewelry class wielding a small blow torch, and therefore, not calling me now. So this call is certainly very bad news about one or both of my children. (I go to very dark places, what can I say?) But it’s just you, wanting to know how late I stay open tonight. “‘Til seven,” I say before hanging up on you.
c) Washing dishes with gloves on, so now I have to turn off the tap, search for the phone amidst the piles of mail on the countertop, thereby getting the mail soggy — in particular a home decorating magazine that I was very much looking forward to reading — so I curse a little bit, take off the gloves, find the phone and say, “Hello?” just as you say, “Oh, sorry, wrong number.”
d) Walking the dog, making dinner, watching Transparent on Amazon Prime, helping my son study the causes of the Spanish-American War, of which there were many, including issues in both the Philippines and Cuba — who knew — and living my life in a way that does not warrant interruption from any and all of you.
e) Writing. Need I say more about this sacred headspace? I’m finally in the zone, people, and when you call, you mess up my chances of ever getting a book deal.
Listen, I understand that no one is perfect, but how is it possible for so many individuals to have the same sort of numeric dyslexia of the same exact number from the seven possible choices on the Walgreens phone number, so that it automatically warps into mine?
Fine, there was one good call. It was a message left on our voicemail, and it went something like this: “Hi, I realize that this is not Walgreens and that I have reached you by accident. I am so sorry about that! But I hate when people call me and don’t leave messages on my machine, so I just wanted to say hi and have a nice day. Bye!”
I kind of love that guy. In a parallel universe, he would be incredibly handsome in addition to being polite, and when he called, my single, twenty-something babysitter would answer and he’d say something clever and she would laugh her robust laugh, and he’d fall in love with her immediately, and the fateful wrong number would somehow lead to their joyful wedding at which I would officiate. (Sometimes I go to bright places, what can I say?)
Anyway. My mother (of the afore-mentioned blow torch) stayed for the weekend a few months ago, babysitting the children and dog and spoiling all of them. When my husband and I returned, she was outraged. “Do you know about these phone calls for Walgreens?”
“Duh,” I said.
“Then why don’t you DO something about it?” She asked.
“Like what?” I asked. Start a petition? Call my local congressman?
Changing my phone number seems like a totally hassle. But, then again, so does living with these calls for the next decade or so, until my kids graduate from high school and I can move to a place with lower taxes and clearer phone numbers. Which hassle is less of a hassle?
“I called Walgreens and demanded that they enlarge the print on their prescription bottles,” my mom said.
I was pretty sure they would ignore her, but whatever. She tried. “What about the people who dial incorrectly from the website? When I tell them they have the wrong number, they say ‘but this is the number on their website.'”
“Huh,” she said.
Then she packed her bags and left, solving nothing.
You know who I miss at times like these? Chip Fisher.
For several years, I received a few calls on my cell phone intended for a guy named Chip Fisher. Sometimes, people would leave detailed messages for him. You know, things like, “Hi, Chip, just wanted to let you know that I made dinner reservations at Balthazar for us on Tuesday the 17th. Please call to confirm.” Not wanting Chip to miss out on dinner at Balthazar, I would call the person back and leave a message to the effect of, “Hey, there, the number you called about dinner is not Chip’s. Please try him again, and get the croque monsieur!”
Because the messages were few and far between, and because they sounded like they belonged to a man with a fun social life, I found them entertaining. I indulged Chip’s friends and acquaintances. I was polite.
Then I got The One.
“Hi, is Chip there please?” A man with a slightly British-y accent asked.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know Chip. This is not his cell phone.”
“You don’t know Chip?” He gasped.
“No, sir, I don’t. I do not know Chip.”
“Right, I’ve heard from others who have called me erroneously that Fisher is his last name. But it’s still not his phone number and I still don’t know him.”
“Chip Fisher of Avery Fisher Hall?”
“Oh! Well, when you put it that way, I know of him, sure. But still, not well enough to relay the message.”
He was huffy. I stood there on a New York City street corner, phone in my hand, getting attitude from a stranger on my unlisted line, and I realized: I don’t need huffy in my life. So, you know what I did?
I hung up.