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"You want this?” David held up his buzzing phone so I could see the number displayed on the screen.

After weighing the risk of answering an unknown number, I said, “Here, give it to me.”

For years, I used the land line as my business number. But when we did away with the wires, David transferred the cool, easy-to-remember, multi-zero string of digits to his mobile. That was a risk in itself, seeing as the bulk of the calls received on that number were unwelcome telemarketers or wrong numbers, of which David now receives an average of five a week.

Though both my man and I subscribe to the “if it’s important, they’ll leave a message” school of thought, I was expecting a call, and there was a chance that my expected caller had my old number in his contacts. Having to say, “No, I don’t have time for a survey or money to give you,” was a small price to pay compared to missing the imminent call from a busy CEO.

I answered with a cheery, “Hello,” and then hunched my shoulders forward and flashed my disappointed face at David as I said, “No, this is not the Ramada Inn,” to the elderly sounding man on the other end of the line.

“Are you sure this isn’t the Ramada?” the man asked.

I was so tempted to respond with, “You got me! I was just kidding — Ramada here. There’s no fooling you!” But instead I said, “I hope not, I’m not ready to receive any guests here. My place is a mess.”

“But is this...” he recited my seven-digit number.

“Yes, that’s my number, but I’m telling you, this is a residence, has been for years. We’re not a hotel. But good luck to you.” He hung up before I did, without a “sorry” or “thank you.” Cantankerous old man, I thought bitterly, mostly out of frustration because his was not the call I had hoped to receive.

A minute later, David’s phone rang again. When he saw it was the same number, he said, “Let it go to voicemail.”

“He didn’t believe me,” I said with a huff, annoyed by both the man’s stubbornness and my expectation that he’d trusted me — a stranger — to tell the truth about my phone number.

“Look, he left a message.” David pressed “speaker” and played it: “There’s...there’s something really screwed up,” said the confused man, sounding like he was speaking to someone offstage.

“Aw, now I feel bad for him,” I said. “Somebody must have given him the wrong number, or maybe he wrote it down wrong. Wait...you know what?” I smiled at my Sherlockiness. “It probably is our number, and he’s just not dialing the right area code. He’s got a 619 number — why would he be looking for a hotel in his own city?”

The phone rang again, and this time I was quick to answer. “Hello? Hello, sir? I think I know what you’re doing wrong.” I paused for a moment, but the man was proving himself a skeptic by keeping quiet. “I think you might have the wrong area — ” I sighed and said, “He hung up.”

David, who’d been tapping on his keyboard while I was trying to connect with the caller, said, “You’re right. It’s in Florida. Ramada Inn — here it is, our number, different area code.” I nodded approvingly. David’s the best googler I know.

I brought up the list of recent calls on David’s phone. “This poor guy needs help. I’m going to call him back. Hope he doesn’t freak out when he sees the number on his phone, I wouldn’t want to scare him away. He’ll be all, like, ‘What manner of callback voodoo is this?’” I chuckled and then chided myself for laughing at someone’s deficiency. I tapped on the number and then waited through several rings before I was forwarded to an un-personalized voicemail box. “Aw, he doesn’t even know how to set up his voicemail,” I said to David as I waited for the beep.

I tried to sound as friendly as possible, so the poor guy didn’t think I was calling to complain for his many misdials. “Hi there. I’m the person you think is the Ramada, but I’m in your area code, in San Diego, and we think you’re trying to reach a Ramada in Florida. If that’s the case, try dialing with this area code.” I stated and repeated the three-digit area code, wished him the best of luck, and hung up.

For the rest of the night, we assumed the man had realized his mistake and taken my advice. But then, the next day, he called again. David’s phone was silent in another room, and the caller ended up in David’s voicemail box, which is preceded by a personal message that is clearly not a Ramada hotel. “Maybe he’s calling to thank me,” I said when David alerted me to the new message. “Go ahead, play it.”

When the message began, the man was seemingly mid-sentence and referring to David’s voicemail greeting: “...and that comes up all the time.” Then — and this was new — two women could be heard in the background. One asked, “What’s the area code?” while the other said, “Is your phone from here?” The man responded, “Uh, no. When I’m here, do I need to put in your area code?” One of the women began to answer, “If your phone is from another — ” and then the message ended.

“Oh, thank Christ, he has some real help there,” I said. “He probably didn’t even get my message. I’m wondering if he even realizes he has voicemail.”

“What was it Einstein said about the definition of insanity?” David cocked his head in thought. “Wait, I have it — doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

“I don’t think this guy is insane, beh-beh. I think he’s just old. Do me a favor — never let me fall that far behind the technology curve. It’s got to be a scary, confusing world for people who are out of touch.”

“I’ve got you covered,” David said with a smirk. “The first thing you have to do is sign on to something called FaceTube.”

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Comments

Frederick Simson March 13, 2013 @ 9:18 p.m.

I think doing the same thing over and over expecting different results is a manifestation of being trained but not educated. It is said that if the only tool you have is a hammer, then all of your problems are treated as nails. This may explain your puzzled caller.

I live a little behind the technology curve myself, but I haven't yet "fallen and can't get up." I've learned how to text, and I wear a bluetooth earpiece. (It's better than a hearing aid!) Somehow I miss old-school telephones, so I collect them. Do you remember when this was cool?

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