By Cathy Jameson
“Wrong number,” I replied.
Every few weeks someone calls the house looking for a woman named Rosa. I can tell right away that it’s either a telemarketer or a collection agency. Sometimes it’s a recording for Rosa to please call the 1-800 number back. Other times when I’ve pick up the phone I recognize a fuzzy sound in my ear and think uh, oh. The low sound with a bit of static muffles some of who I know is in the background. It’s the distant chatter of hundreds of operators sitting in a call center. That sound is a tell tale sign that comes with a knee-jerk reaction--don’t breathe; they’ll know I’m alive and will think they can start talking to me. The lone operator assigned to track Rosa with my phone number is relentless despite the “wrong number” responses I’ve given in the past. I’ve adopted a new strategy when I hear that muffled noise as I pick up the phone: hang up quickly. It saves me more time.
The last call I got caught me off guard though. I answered the phone thinking it was a friend. I waited a few seconds after I’d said hello and realized the call wasn’t for me. It was for Rosa. I decided not to hang up right away and answered again with a long, drawn out, “H-e-l-l-o???” The collection agency was once more trying to get a hold of Rosa. Using one of their underpaid, irritated automatons pretending to sound chipper I heard, “Good morning! May I please speak to Rosa?” I replied, “You have the wrong number,” and politely tried to hang up. Cutting me off the operator said, “Ma’am, are you the lady of the house?”
I had to laugh. Lady of the House. What a catchy title! It reeks of regality and privilege. I pictured myself lounging, completely lazy and fully catered to by wait staff on a lovely afternoon. I saw myself sitting poolside with a tasty adult beverage in hand. What fun! Too bad for me though. It’s so not how I really am or really see myself, my situation or my home. Frumpy, exhausting and a tad on the disorganized side describes me and what’s going on around me. This was especially so on the morning of that call.
If I were the Lady of the House I surely wouldn’t be answering my own phone. I’d have someone else do that. I certainly wouldn’t still be in my pajamas at 10am eating cereal with a plastic kid’s spoon. I definitely wouldn’t have driven my children to school in those pajamas either. But I did.
Back to the phone call. “Are you the lady of the house?” I paused long enough to envision myself this time being pampered in a mansion sitting atop an impeccably landscaped lawn at the edge of the ocean. Stammering I said, “Lady of the house?! Nope, but thanks for that thought. You have the wrong number.”
This call was turning out to be entertaining. I didn’t want to hang up as quickly as I usually do, so I added, “Rosa doesn’t live here.”
I stayed on the line wondering what would come next. Clearly tired of making calls for someone else, the operator sighed and asked again, “So, you’re not Rosa? We need her to contact us about her account. Do you know where she is? ”
“Nope,” I sputtered as I crunched through my gluten-free Koala Krisps hoping to at least finish breakfast before it was lunchtime.
The disgruntled debt collector pressed, “Do you have the authority to make decisions for the household?”
I almost choked on the next spoonful. Obviously the operator clearly hadn’t heard that Rosa isn’t here, nor was she ever, and I don’t give a lick about her debt since I have enough of my own to worry about. “Okay, I’m going to hang up now. You have the wrong number….”
“But, do you have authority to make decisions…”