Several years ago I was calling a woman at work and transposed the area code. Instead of dialing 301 (Maryland) I dialed 310 (Los Angeles). When a man answered the phone, I realized my mistake.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’ve got the wrong number.”
“I …. am not …..a wrong number,” he replied.
Not quite knowing what to do about this response, I stammered, “I meant that I dialed the wrong number, I didn’t mean anything else.”
“That’s okay,” he said cheerfully. “My name is Steve. I see you’re calling from a 703 area code. Are you in Virginia?”
“Well, yes I am. I’m sorry to have bothered you.”
“No, don’t hang up yet,” he said. “I’m on my way to a job interview. I just found out about it. Right now I sell office supplies, and this is a job selling gourmet food to some of the top restaurants in LA. I’m nervous.”
I have to admit, I was a little bit charmed. “Well, Steve. I wish you luck on your job interview. It sounds like a very interesting opportunity.”
“Oh, it’s very interesting!” he said. And then proceeded to tell me all about the job opportunity. Nervously looking at my watch, I finally had to interrupt and say, “Steve, this has been great, but I really need to hang up now and call the person I was trying to reach in the first place.”
“Oh, that’s all right,” he said. “It was nice talking to you. Wish me luck on my interview!”
“Good luck,” I replied. And then hung up the phone and went back to work. Several hours later, while focusing on a large project I was working on, I answered my phone.
“This is Kelly,” I said.
“Is this Susan?” asked the caller.
“No, I’m sorry you have the wrong number.”
“Kelly, my dear, dear Kelly. You are not a wrong number,” said the caller.
“Steve, is that you?”
“Steve! Wrong numbers are not supposed to call you back!!”
“Well, I wanted to tell you how my interview went. I think I’m going to get the job!”
And thus began my relationship with my wrong number. Every so often Steve would call me to talk about his day (he did get the job) and ask me how I was doing. This went on for over a year. I never knew when he would call, and we never talked for very long. He just seemed to enjoy keeping me updated on his life. I would always work in a brief comment about my husband or my kids, so he would know that I was married and very unavailable. But that wasn’t really the nature of the conversations, he seemed more interested in treating me as a sounding board for his ideas.
Then one day he called and I was working on a proposal so I didn’t have any time to talk. This seemed to upset him and he hung up a bit miffed. He called the next day and his tone was very accusatory.
“I really wanted to talk to you yesterday, Kelly,” he said. “I am thinking about quitting my job and wanted your advice.”
“Well Steve, I was very busy and couldn’t talk. And quite frankly, I think you’d be better off talking about this with a friend or colleague, not me.”
“Kelly, I thought you were a friend.”
“Steve, I don’t know you well enough to give that sort of advice.”
“So you don’t want to help me?”
“Steve, it isn’t a matter of not wanting to help. Its a matter of not really being in a position to give you relevant advice. I don’t know you, Steve.”
“Kelly, you really aren’t the person I thought you were.”
“Steve, I’m NO PERSON you thought I was, I’m a WRONG NUMBER, remember???”
Well, I guess that was the wrong thing to say to Steve. There was a long silence and finally Steve said, “Kelly, I think we need to end this relationship.”
“Steve, we don’t have a relationship, I’m a wrong number that you’ve been calling for over a year. You don’t know what I look like, you don’t know where I live, you don’t know anything about me.”
“Well, regardless, I think it is time we stopped talking.”
“Okay, Steve. I wish you luck, whatever you decide to do.”
And he hung up. And that is how my wrong number broke up with me. I’ve never heard from him since. But whenever I answer the phone and someone asks for a name that isn’t my own, I wonder for a millisecond if it is Steve, calling to catch me up on his life.