Wrong number

I’m so lonely. Nobody ever calls me anymore. I used to get telephone calls all the time. But then text messaging came around. I used to just ignore all incoming text messages, but eventually they became so ubiquitous that it wasn’t enough to simply ignore them. I had to at least acknowledge them, or my phone kept beeping, it was such an annoying feature, and there would be this number on the home screen representing all of my unread texts. But I refused to text back. Any time somebody sent me a text message, I would immediately call that person and start a real-life conversation. This only lasted for a little bit, because people got annoyed and stopped answering my phone calls all together. Group text messages were the worst. I’d see that I’m one of like eight or nine people receiving a message, and there’s just not enough time in the day to call each one of them back, wait for each one of them to ignore my call, listen to each person’s wildly out of date voicemail message, and then leave a voicemail message on each person’s inbox. I’m just kidding. I don’t really know eight or nine people.

So I’ll hear my ringtone and get really excited. Unfortunately it’s usually this spam robot from Washington State telling me I’ve just won a cruise. I hate it so much. I see the area code and my brain is screaming, “Rob! Don’t pick it up! Rob! Listen to me Rob! Do not answer that phone call! You will be so pissed when you answer it, say hello, and then there’s going to be that delay, and then you’ll think maybe nobody’s there, but then you’ll hear that terrible recording of the cruise horn, and you’ll try to turn off the phone before you have to hear that other recording, the guy who sounds like the moviefone guy saying, ‘This is your cruise captain! You’ve just won a cruise!’ So don’t pick it up!” But I always pick it up. What if it’s one of my long-lost friends who has since moved to Washington State? Why would I take a chance on missing out on such a great conversation? Catching up on old times, reminiscing about all the trouble we used to get into back in the day. I’m just kidding. I’ve never been in any trouble.

If the call isn’t from Washington State, nine times out of ten it’s going to be a wrong number. I used to hate wrong numbers. I’d be like, “No this isn’t Hank! Get your numbers together buddy!” But now I love wrong numbers. Whenever I get a call from a wrong number, I always try to keep the caller on the line for as long as possible. Like I said, super lonely. Now I’m always like, “Hello?” and the other person will say, “Hank?” and I’ll say, “Hank here! How can I help you?” and the other person will continue, “Hank? Is that you? You sound different.” So maybe I’ll try to alter my voice just a little bit. I used to alter it dramatically, which would immediately send an alert to the caller that I’m not who I say I am, so I now I just alter it slightly. Maybe I’ll make it a little more nasally or maybe like half an octave higher or lower. Most of this time they still catch on, but maybe I’ll have extended the conversation by a minute or two. “Hank? Do you have a cold?” And I’ll say, “Yeah, that’s it. A cold. Right. I have a cold.” But they’ll be thinking, “Who says, ‘Yeah, that’s it,’ in real life? It’s so obvious that this person is jerking me around.”

What started out as a desperate longing for any sort of human conversation has now turned into more of a personal challenge. How long can I keep a complete stranger on the phone that has called me by mistake? So when I get one of these calls, someone will be like, “Is Laura there?” I’ll always immediately say, “Yeah, hold on, one second, I’ll go get Laura,” and then I put down the phone for a while. All this really does is inflate the time, but that’s all I’m after now, to break my previous record. I’ve found the sweet spot of this waiting period to be about four minutes. Anything more than that and the caller is going to look at their watch, and then look at the phone, and they’ll probably realize that they typed in the wrong number and they’ll hang up, that’s it. But once you’ve made somebody wait for four minutes, it’s unlikely that you’ll get them to stay on any longer, even if you pick up the phone and start talking again.

What you have to do is make them wait like three minutes, and then you pick up the phone again and start talking in a different voice, maybe like a little kid’s voice. And you say something like, “Hello? Who is this?” and the person will go “Laura?” and then you say, “Hold on, she’s right here.” Then you put down the phone and you take a few steps away and you scream out, “Laura!” and then you run up the stairs, making sure you’re still in earshot of the phone and you scream out, in your best girl’s voice, “What?” Then you run back downstairs, “Phone call!” Upstairs. “Who is it?” Then you run back to the phone and get a different little kid’s voice ready. “Who’s calling please?” And they might say, “It’s Trish.” And you do this back and forth until you’re back at the top of the stairs and you say, “Tell Trish I’ll be there in a second!”

I once got someone to wait for twenty-one minutes and twelve seconds. But that’s been by far my longest call. My second longest is only around thirteen minutes. I never get higher than thirteen or fourteen. Actually, the twenty-one minute call, I think, was a mistake, because the other person must have been equally as lonely as I am, because he has my number now, this guy from Wisconsin, this real wacko, and he’s calling me like three or four times a day. Whenever I’m out with my friends, I’ll get these calls from this guy, and I always have to answer and pretend like it’s a wrong number, and we always wind up playing tricks on each other. Sometimes I think that he has his own little challenge with himself, like how long can he keep me on the line. I’m just kidding. I don’t have any friends.

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