The other night I was just drifting off to sleep when the phone rang. It wasn't terribly late by most people's standards--it was about 10:15--but it was late by mine. Boscoe tries to get us up every morning at about 5:20 a.m., and if he doesn't succeed Riley is there by 5:45 to nuzzle us out of bed.
So 10:15 is no time for me to be chatting on the phone. I have come to hate late-night calls, anyway; I remember my parents, when I was growing up, complaining that late-night calls are always bad news, and while that wasn't true in my 20s or 30s, by the time I hit my 40s it was starting to be true. My sister, my dad.
So I lay in the dark and counted the rings and thought, My mother? Doug's mother?
One. Two. Three. Four. Answering machine picks up, and I hear a series of clicks and static, and then a hangup.
I drift off to sleep....almost. The phone rings again. My eyes open. I listen, count. Four rings, answering machine, clicks, static, hangup.
I am just about to drift off to sleep when, yes, it happens again. These calls are spaced about five or six minutes apart--just far enough apart that I relax in between and am nearly asleep when the next one comes.
With the fourth call, which comes just before 10:30, I have had it. I fly out of bed. I run down the stairs. I grab the phone, which by now is on the clicking and static stage. I know who it is. So do you. It's the immigrant family from the east side of St. Paul, who must have our phone number mistakenly programmed into some device or another, and who call us all the time.
I go in the kitchen and shut the door, because I know that I am going to yell.
I press star 69. It gives me a number--yes, a St. Paul number, that same St. Paul number that I am beginning to recognize--and the machine asks if I would like to call that number. If so, press one. I press one. The line is busy. The automated voice tells me to press another key if I would like to be alerted when the line is no longer busy. Part of me is saying, calm down, calm down, who knows how much all these fancy phone services will cost? But instead I press the key and within seconds they have hung up from calling someone else in the middle of the night and their phone rings and they are answering and even as I hear a shaky, confused "Allo?" I am yelling.
Stop calling me. Stop calling me! I am furious. I am frustrated.
Caw-ing? asks the vague voice on the other end, and I do not know if she is on drugs or if I have somehow awakened her, oh irony of ironies, or what, and I am fairly sure that she cannot understand me in any case, but I can't stop yelling.
Stop calling me! You've called me four times! You keep waking me up!
I yell some more.
I can hear the phone being handed off, and then a small clear child's voice says, politely, "Hello?"
I should not yell, but I do. I yell at this little kid. Stop calling me! Stop calling my house!
There is another baffled silence, and then the child says, quietly, "Sorry."
By then I am hanging up. I am filled with righteous indignation. I stomp up the stairs. But by the time I am once again lying down in the dark, I am feeling ashamed. I yelled at a little kid. I yelled at a woman who cannot understand my language, who knows only that an angry stranger called her in the middle of the night (well, at 10:30 p.m.) and hollered at her, God knows why.
I keep hearing the sweet, polite, "Sorry," in my head.
Sorry. He said he was sorry!
I lie in the dark, and the phone doesn't ring, and I cannot get to sleep.
4 hours ago