In my life there have been numerous moments where I, or those around me have wanted to die and fall into the deepest, dark hole they could find. I’m a whiz when it comes to saying inappropriate things at inopportune times. It’s a gift really.
Today I had one of those embarrassingly awkward moments. Right now, we’re smack dab in the middle of allergy season in Georgia. We’re on the 13th month of a 12 month allergy cycle. But things are looking up for us. The ragweed is nearly done….just in time for the pine pollen to begin again. Anyway, I’m struggling with the slightest stuffy nose. It’s nothing big, but definitely enough to change my voice a bit and make my words run together slightly. Out of the blue I decided to make a phone call to someone I haven’t talked to in a few months. Its a family thing, and if you have extended family I’m sure you understand where I’m going with this.
So I dial the number and listen patiently as the phone rings two or three times. The line picks up and I hear my beautiful aunts voice on the other end. I offer her my most chipper, “Hello Auntie ______”, and then there’s silence. And I’m not talking about that take a breath kind of silence before you go on with your conversation. It was the “who in the heck is this and how did you get my number?” kind of silence. It’s that “crap, why did I answer this?” kind of silence. It’s the kind of silence that makes you (the caller) feel at a complete loss for words. And in that silence you think to yourself…did I dial the wrong number? Has my tongue swelled to twice its normal size and I’m talking like I’ve had an injection of novacane? Did I just call this person by the wrong name? Poop…it was the name thing again, wasn’t it?!
And as it always happens in these types of situations, my dear sweet auntie asks the questions we all do…”who is this?”
When you have to introduce yourself to your kin, its been too long! I’m horrible at keeping in touch. You’d think after all these years I’d learn to either call more often or just throw in the towel and become one of those funeral and wedding kinds of kin. You know, the ones who only show up when there’s free food and liquor….
And as I was sitting here reflecting on the conversation; which by the way went charmingly well once we got past the formal introductions; it reminded me of another phone conversation that didn’t end so well……….
Sam and I were living in Iowa at the time. His daughter had gone off and married a hairy Scotsman. I didn’t attend the wedding (it’s a long story), so I’d never met the chap. I hadn’t even spoken to him on the phone before this conversation….a conversation which is told and re-told at all major family gatherings…much to my horror and shame. Anyway, Sam and I were in the process of getting ready to head out of the house for an evening of fun and frivolity when the phone rang. Sam was in the shower so I answered it. This is how the conversation went…
Caller: “Is SUM there?”
Me: “Um, I think you have the wrong number.”
Caller: “Oh, sorry ’bout that.”
I turned around to walk back to the bedroom and the phone rang again, so I answered it.
Caller: “Is SUM there?”
Me: “I think you just called here and I believe you have the wrong number. There is no SUM here.”
Caller: “Oh sorry.”
As I turned to head back toward the bedroom the phone rang again. And like an idiot I answered it…..again.
Caller: “Is SUM there?”
Me: “Um I think you’ve still got the wrong number. There is NO SUM that lives here. You might check your number again.”
Caller: “Is this 237-6439?”
Me: “Yes it is, but I’m telling you, there is no SUM that lives here. You’ve got the wrong number!”
Caller: (in a very reluctant voice) “Oh, okay, sorry ’bout that.”
Thankfully the phone didn’t ring a fourth time or I might have ripped the cord out of the wall. However, when Sam exited the shower and inquired about the multiple phone calls I relayed the jist of the conversations to him. I explained that the caller was looking for SUM and there were no SUM’S that lived in our house. Sam thought for a moment about the strange calls and then turned to me and asked it the caller would have possibly been asking for “SAM”? I explained that if he was looking for SAM that he needed to learn English! And then Sam did the funniest thing…he put on his own Scottish accent and asked if the caller was looking for “SUM”?
It took me a second to process it all, but I’m sure the blood flooded my cheeks as I realized I’d just hung up on Sam’s son-in-law….three times! I was mortified. Laughing, Sam picked up the phone and dialed Scotland. Yep, it was his son-in-law all right, who was just as befuddled by the conversation as I was, only in a different way. But truly, if you’ve ever heard a thick Scottish accent over long distance it’s very confusing…at least, that’s what I keep telling myself. Now anytime I see their phone number pop up on the caller ID I just ignore it because I know the caller will be looking for “SUM”!