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    “The bathtub was invented in 1850 and the telephone in 1875. In other words, if you had been living in 1850, you could have sat in the bathtub for 25 years without having to answer the phone.” (Bill Dewitt)

    I have always had a love/hate relationship with my telephone, but it does have its advantages.  Fran Lebowitz said, “The telephone is a good way to talk to people without having to offer them a drink.” Happily, Caller I.D. makes it much easier to ignore unfamiliar phone numbers, and I figure if it’s important, the caller will leave a message.

    This is generally true, but sometimes the message on my answering machine is not for me, because someone has dialed a wrong number. When that happens, I often feel obligated to call the person and let him or her know that the nurse called the wrong patient, that I haven’t scheduled a plumber, or that someone’s date is probably at the restaurant waiting for her.

    I don’t know if I’ve been helpful, but I do know that people who dial wrong numbers have always managed to find mine. Not wanting to be interrupted (no matter what he was doing) my husband religiously refused to answer a ringing telephone. He never bothered to balance a checkbook either, but that’s another story. So before the advent of cell phones and Caller I.D., it was part of my job description to answer the phone.  

    When we lived in Atlanta, The Atlanta Constitution was the large daily paper. However, there also were several small weekly newspapers. One of these weekly publications had an advertising section for alternative life styles, and also included phone numbers for Gay bathhouses.

    Somehow, instead of the appropriate phone number, our home number was printed in one of these ads. So, naturally, I informed the editor of their mistake and he promised to rectify it in the next edition. In the meantime, I received lots of calls from prospective customers. The minute the men heard my voice, they knew they had the wrong number and were always polite and apologetic---but pleased when I gave them the correct number.

    The next week, the number was put right in the paper, and all was quiet on the home front, until I received a call from the bathhouse proprietor who thanked me profusely for all the referrals.

    Some of you will be pleased and some heartily disillusioned to learn that I volunteer every Tuesday morning at Democratic Headquarters, but it is a fact of life, so live with it!  Since I sit at the front desk, one of my duties is to answer the phone.

    Last week, I answered the phone and a man said, “I have a strange request.” I said, “I have worked here for a long time. Believe me I’m used to some strange requests.  How can I help you?” He said, “I’m a Republican, and I can’t find the phone number of Republican Headquarters. By any chance, do you have that number?”  “Sure,” I replied. “Hang on, I’ll get it for you.” And, I gave him the number.

    Ten minutes later, the phone rang again. It was the same man. He said, “They are so rude!” I can’t believe how rude they were to me.” “And,” he added. “You were so nice.” I said, “I’m sorry you had such a bad experience, but I hope you learned that Democrats are really nice people.”

    In a previous column I mentioned that a woman called and wanted to talk to my husband, “the urologist” because her doctor had given her our number.  I told her that my husband was not a urologist, but she insisted that he was.  Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and said, “Lady, my husband can’t even fix a leaking faucet.” She hung up.

    Another lady, dialed my number several times, and she finally believed me that    no one named Gladys lived at my house. However, she called one more time to tell me, “You are the nicest wrong number I have ever called.”

    Happily, because of modern technology, obscene phone calls are a thing of the past---unless you count political pollsters.  

    Esther Blumenfeld (“How come wrong numbers are never busy?”) anonymous

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