Although it is Spring Break at Mondoville College, the public schools remain open — their break is at the end of the month. This means that I’ve been getting up at my usual hour (4:45 a.m.) to make sure the Hound of the Basketballs gets her morning walk and the Spawn gets a hot breakfast before school. Then I go back to bed and catch up on the deep and dreamless.
However, through a fluke in the scheduling of her high school and college courses, the Spawn gets alternate Fridays off. This is such a Friday, and on days off, she makes her own breakfast. We had actually talked about it, both of us happy that we would get to sleep in today. (Granted, I still got up for a few minutes at stupid o’clock to let the Hound into the backyard and back into the house, but it was a brief interlude, all things considered.) True to our plans, I was sleeping this morning as if I were competing for a spot on the Somnolympic team.
And at nine, the phone started ringing. The machine answered it — and it turned out to be a robocall hang up. As was the next one, about three minutes later. And the one thirty seconds after that. I knew these weren’t important calls — very few people use our land line. And by the fourth call, I had a pretty good idea of what was happening.
Apparently, our current phone number (which we’ve had for about a year) previously belonged to someone (We’ll call her Wisteria Deadbeat) who has or had a habit of running up bills and then neglecting to pay them later. Since our move to the Mid-Century Mondohaus, I’ve grown accustomed to receiving calls from collection agents for dear Wisteria. I inform the callers that this is no longer Ms. Deadbeat’s number, and the callers tell me they’ll drop us from their list. (How often they follow through on this promise I don’t know — it isn’t as though I’ve kept a log of these people.)
Well, it seems that today was Everyone Call Wisteria Deadbeat Day, as two more calls came in while I was rolling out of bed and getting dressed. For those of you not keeping score, those would be calls five and six. By call number seven, the Spawn and I were in the kitchen, where the upstairs phone is. I had checked messages — robohangups both. So I picked up call number seven, and heard the bored voice of someone in a boiler room asking to speak to Wisteria. I did my usual spiel, got the usual apology, and hung up. The Spawn began to cook her breakfast as I headed downstairs to the den.
I sat down, turned on the computer, and the phone rang. As I walked over to pick up the downstairs receiver, the Caller ID gave me an “Unknown Caller” from a local number. Yep, another call for Ms. Deadbeat. Now, I try to be civil to people, but there’s a reason Mondo has not replaced Job in the lexicon of patience. That reason is the eighth misguided call in a half-hour span.
I pick up the phone. “Hello?”
Click. Boiler room sounds. “Hello — may I speak to Wisteria Deadbeat, please?”
I sighed. I said, “That person cannot be reached at this number. This has been the case for more than a year. I do not know Ms. Deadbeat, nor anyone of that name.” Yes, I spoke in italics, but you’ll notice I did not speak with exclamation points. I spoke distinctly, but not savagely.
And the voice on the other end said, “I don’t know why you’re speaking to me like that! This is the first time I’ve called. I’ll remove your number from our computer.” Click. And so I was hung up on by a collection agent.
And you know what? I actually felt a bit guilty about it. I have no idea what life choices led this woman to a veal-fattening pen I imagine reeking of Marlboros and failure, calling people like Ms. Deadbeat, who have evidently made even poorer choices. Still, when I receive eight of these calls in thirty minutes to begin my day, my live-and-let-live attitude diminishes.
So in any case, Ms. Collector, good luck in bringing Wisteria to ground, and I apologize if I was short with you earlier. I’m afraid you were collateral damage.