Driving and Biking in the Big City

An old-fashioned connection

with 2 comments

Most every morning for at least a year, the red message light has been blinking on my office phone as soon as I arrive at work from my commute. I’ve got to tell you that few people leave me messages in these texting, blogging, Facebooking and email days. So, a flashing red light on my land line at work always gives me a bit  of a rush. Nothing  like a potential emergency first thing in the morning to make me put down my Starbucks and grab a pencil and paper.

However, to my great relief and increasing chagrin, this message was always a wrong number. Not for me. Nothing to be done. I would simply forget it, but it turns out to be the same wrong number from the same old gentleman every few days with arbitrary consistency. No other messages for me. So, I grew increasingly worried and wary that this caller was  at death’s door with my number perhaps the last one he had energy to dial.

“Hello, it’s me,” he says in the most gravely of voices. “I really need your help. I need you to come see me. Call me back as soon as you can.”

You get a message like this a few times in a row, and you start worrying. I couldn’t call him back because his number was a main line and not an individual number. I’m thinking he’s in assisted living or in the hospital because of the weak sound of his voice. To make matters worse, he never leaves a name, and I can’t quite tell what he’s calling me. Is it Don, John or Tom? I have nothing.

And so it continues. Every few days with each day’s work erasing him from my mind. I forget about him, the light blinks, I overreact and it’s him again.

Eventually, I called in a second opinion from Thelma, one of my most can-do and level headed of co-workers. Where I can be a bit of an over reactor, Thelma typically is a careful responder. I thought she would put my mind at ease, and we could get on with our work. No further obligation on my part. But no.  Thelma was as devastated as me at the sound of this poor guy’s voice and his plea for help. She looked up the number and immediately found its link to a veteran’s home in Virginia. We are working in the Texas Medical Center and near the DeBakey VA Center, so we are thinking this is not a coincidence.

I know I’ve got very little to go on but have to do something. I call the main number. I get a really nice nurse or receptionist who spends a careful amount of time interrogating me to see if we can discover who this might be — calling my office number late at night and leaving increasing desperate messages. She takes down my information and phone number and promises to let the supervising nurse know or call me back for more help. I am somewhat relieved, especially when I go another month or so with no calls from the old gentleman. Again, work invades my mind and I forget.

Then, this week, it starts again. This time, though, the message is about “the game” and that he needs help with his television reception.  I know excellent reception for the big game is a huge emergency for most people, but I’m no longer overly concerned.

Then comes Friday. It’s about 2 p.m. , and my office phone rings. I answer and hear the same old gravely voice. Live for the very first time. Not on the recorder. I settle in like I’m speaking to an old familiar friend.

He’s shocked to learn he’s been calling the wrong number all these months. No, it’s not any trouble for me, I say repeatedly. I just want him to know so he can get the help he needs. No, he’s not disturbing me right now. Finally, we realize his finger has been slipping for one digit. He needs a zero and sometimes hits a one. I want to prolong the call for some reason. I want to know more about him, but he is so formal and old-fashioned. I draw it out as long as I can. I’m in Houston, I tell him. He’s surprised and intrigued. I talk about the weather. He continues to apologize; I repeatedly tell him it’s no bother.

I’m relieved. We’ve finally connected and taken care of business. Mystery solved. I won’t miss the flashing red light first thing in the morning, but I may miss the old gravely voice.


Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

September 8, 2012 at 12:10 pm

2 Responses

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  1. I love this story. Let me know if he ever calls again. Maybe he’ll miss you, too. ☺


    Sampieri, Judy G

    September 11, 2012 at 1:12 pm

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