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Wrong Numbers

The phone rang yesterday afternoon. I picked it up.

“Hi, is this Chicky’s Run?” asked the caller. She had a jaunty voice with a hint of country drawl.

“I’m sorry, you’ve got the wrong number,” I said.

“Oh. Sorry about that!” she said brightly.

“No problem,” I said. “Have a good one.”

“You too!”

Afterwards, I found myself thinking that the call had been, in some odd way  I couldn’t really articulate to myself, rather pleasant. It had something to do with its unexpectedness, with the sense of flower-potted window opening for a moment into another person’s world, and being closed with a polite wave; a small, self-contained and very human moment.

Each day I’m involved in about a dozen business-related calls. In every one, I’m asking someone for something, or being asked. The conversations might be enjoyable, they might even be a talk between friends, but there’s a pretext. The Chicky’s Run mixup was refreshingly free.

And as I thought about it, I realized that I couldn’t remember my last wrong number conversation. When I misdial, I end up in someone’s voicemail, and hang up quickly. I assume the reverse is true.  No doubt people make more calls than ever; but in an age of cell phones, Skype and incoming caller ID, this particular interaction seems to have vanished.

Whether it says anything about our historical moment that a wrong number now seems a comparatively meaningful interaction, I don’t know. But I kind of miss them.

Image: Dennis Markham

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