Slices of Life... Late night phone calls: To answer or not to answer, that is the question
If you are an average person (and who among us isn't) there is one word that comes to mind when your phone rings in the middle of the night: Emergency! It's a well-known, unwritten rule; no one calls after the 10 o'clock news unless something bad...
If you are an average person (and who among us isn't) there is one word that comes to mind when your phone rings in the middle of the night: Emergency! It's a well-known, unwritten rule; no one calls after the 10 o'clock news unless something bad has happened. Either that, or a baby better be on its way.
Our phone rang this morning at precisely 12:58 a.m. I know because I was pulled out of a really good dream that involved ice cream and the ocean. Suddenly the shoreline erupted in a thunderous, ringing, hot fudge-topped tsunami, and before I knew it, I was wide awake. Well, awake enough to put an end to my version of the world's largest ice cream sundae.
I stumbled out of bed, not really knowing where I was going, so I did what most moms do when half awake. I checked on the kids. They were sleeping soundly, without a sound coming from their rooms.
Somewhere in the far reaches of the house, however, the ringing continued, pulling me closer and closer to consciousness. By the third child's room, I realized why I was out of bed.
I made my way toward the stairs, suddenly aware that it was very dark. I held onto the wall and groped for the stair rail. Ringing filled the air.
As my brain continued to thaw, bad thoughts permeated my synaptic connections, although I wasn't able to think in such scientific terms. Things were a whole lot simpler, albeit scary: Phone...Middle of the night...Car Accident...Heart Attack...Bad News...Hurry.
I descended the stairs, hearing the ring every couple of seconds. If I hadn't been so alarmed, I probably would have found it annoying, being jerked from a really good dream, in the wee hours of the morning. I got to the bottom step and half-leapt, half-stumbled across the kitchen toward the phone. As I reached for the receiver, the ringing stopped.
I stared down at the phone, dumbfounded, not knowing quite what to do. Then it started ringing again.
The male voice on the other line was unfamiliar. "Sheila?" he said. "This is Reggie."
My name isn't Sheila, and I don't know anyone named Reggie. "You must have the wrong number," I replied in my most polite it's-after-midnight-and-you-woke-me-up voice.
"Oh," said Reggie, hanging up without so much of an excuse me.
I was finally wide awake and realized that besides emergencies, there is another reason why the phone rings at one in the morning: wrong number.
Over the years, I've been the recipient of a few late-night, early-morning wrong-number phone calls. They tend to have one thing in common, besides occurring while you are deep in slumber. They ring and ring until you answer. Often the caller hangs up, dials your wrong number again, and the incessant ringing begins anew.
Which leaves in you in quandary. Even though you know the call is probably a wrong number, you really can't ignore the ringing phone, because the one time that you do will be the one time that your dearly loved family member is experiencing an emergency and needs your help.
This leaves me with just a few observations. First, if you are calling someone named Sheila in the middle of the night, maybe it would be a good idea to check the number to make sure you have the correct one.
Second, if Sheila doesn't answer after the first go-round, don't press redial. Finally, and most importantly, if you are awake in the middle of the night and feel like chatting, look no further than your pillow. The rest of us are sleeping. You should be, too. Go to bed. Sweet dreams. We'll talk in the morning.
Jill Pertler is a syndicated columnist and freelance writer working with graphic designer Nikki Willgohs to provide writing and design and other marketing services to businesses and individuals. She appreciates comments and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .