Okay, I will admit the title of this story is misleading, but these were the words that an elderly gentleman friend used on me during our last telephone conversation. You see, my friend, William, is eighty-two years old. He has trouble seeing, and he might have some confusion issues as well. To be honest, I have never met William; I plan on it soon, but we haven’t been able to arrange an in-person meet yet. You see, it’s by accident that I know William at all. I know him because he keeps calling me. I am his wrong number.
William calls me when he is trying to contact his daughter who has a similar number. In fact, if you transpose the last two digits of my number, you get her number. So, William, in his sometimes-foggy state, calls my house.
Our friendship started last April. I had just finished a phone interview for a story I was doing. I was about to get up from my desk when I saw my personal line light up. I answered it, and an elderly man jumped into a frantic rant about his blood sugar being high and how his palpitations were making him feel as if his heart was breaking through his chest. The thought that this man, who I knew nothing about, was dying on the other end of the phone sent me into a state of panic. I don’t even know why I thought about this clearly because being calm in an emotional situation is not my forte, but I managed to have enough common sense to look at the number on my caller ID and then use my cell phone to call 911.
This is what I must have sounded like to the 911 operator.
“Oh my God, there is an old man, and I don’t know who he is, but he’s dying, and you have to get to him and he is having palpitations!”
“Miss, calm down!” The nice man on the other side of the phone commanded. “Who is he and where is he?”
“Uh, I don’t know. He just called me! I think he is in real trouble.”
“You don’t know. Someone just called you and told you he was dying? Do you take medications?”
Great, I am in a life-and-death situation here and I have the police version of Jay Leno on the other end of the phone.
“NO! He’s a stranger for God’s sake! Pay attention!”
“Okay, where did he call you from?”
“From his phone! Where do you think?”
“I mean from what number did he call?”
“Oh, I have that! I looked it up on my caller ID!” I gave the dispatcher the number on my phone.
“Good girl!” He responded with delight as if he was complimenting a freaking six-year-old instead of a middle-aged moron.
Well, I didn’t waste my time being insulted, and the dispatcher obviously felt no need to apologize. He was able to find out where William lived and sent the police and ambulance. The police called me later and told me that William was not dying, but it was good I called as he was quite confused. They brought him to the hospital, and by the way, he was not happy with them or apparently me because “I turned him into the cops”. Three days later, the hospital sprung him, and his family put him in an assisted living facility where—get this—every resident has his own phone. Yeah, how lucky for me! My phone started to ring again.
“Jeannie, my blood sugar is high and I can’t find my medicines.”
“William, it’s me, Donna—not Jeannie. How about you tell me Jeannie’s last name so I can call her?
“Why do you want to know that? Are you going to rob her? Maybe I should call the police on you.”
I could tell this was going to be a no-win situation for me. After about five minutes, I did manage to convince him that I had no intention of harming him, but since he keeps calling me, it would be best if I knew his emergency information so I could contact the right people and not bother 911. So, he gave me Jeannie’s last name, and it turns out that she lived right around the corner from me. Our two phone numbers were so similar that I could see how William would confuse them. Hell, I would confuse them and for the most part, I am in full possession of my faculties … sort of … once in a while.
I thought we were okay and got things straightened out until about an hour later when the police showed up at my door investigating a threat I supposedly made against William. Well, the police seemed to agree that I was not ready to be on America’s Most Wanted, so they didn’t arrest me. They confirmed my 911 adventures with William and the dispatcher, and that was fortunate because with the recession and everything, I wasn’t sure if I would have the extra money for bail, and I was a bit worried about spending time in county jail. I do not think I would fare well in that situation.
Well, we finally did set up an emergency phone chain between William, me, and Jeannie, and it has worked out pretty well. Sometimes I hear from William six or seven times a day. Then, it dies down for a few days before he gets enamored with the phone again. I am at the point where if I do not hear from him, I call over to the assisted-living facility to make sure he is okay. Jeannie and I have become friendly and meet for coffee too.
A few days ago, William called again and said, “Jeannie, I need you to go get my medicine …”
“William, it’s Donna. I will call Jeannie for you. Are you okay?”
“Oh, Donna. I am good, Honey. You know, you are so sweet. If I was younger, I could use this wrong number thing to pick up a nice lady like you!”
Yes, William is feeling much better these days.