We all get a bit stupid when we dial the wrong number. You could be calling a convent, and a gruff guy says “Hello” and you hear Led Zeppelin in the background, but you still ask, “Is Sister Mary there?”
“I think you’ve got the wrong number.”
Obviously. But just so it doesn’t happen again, you ask: “Is this 555-9341?”
“Nah, that’s a movie number. You’re calling someplace fictional. This is Valvoline.”
We must pause here to explain the concept of “calling someone” to the texting generation, who regard the voice communication capabilities of their phone like a car horn that you operate by sticking your hand out the window and squeezing a rubber bulb.
Anyway, the other night I decided to call my dad and dialed his number. (Young folks: that’s how you operate a phone if you don’t use the “contacts” app.)
Some young-voiced fellow answered.
What? I didn’t know Dad was taking in boarders. I immediately constructed a scenario where some nice, earnest young sociopath had talked his way into the house with a pack of lies — “I’m a homeless vet, and I wondered if I could paint a fence in exchange for a bologna sandwich?” — and then my dad fell asleep and I interrupted the guy as he was putting silverware in a pillowcase.
I almost said, “What have you done with my father? And are you a vet in the soldier sense, or the veterinarian sense?”
But no, wrong number, sorry, no problem. Click. I looked at the number I’d dialed. It was the right number. It’s been the number since 1962.
So I called Dad’s cell. Got voice mail. Didn’t worry; he was probably out on his Harley. It’s one of those three-wheeled models. He liked his two-wheel Harley better, but he is 91. A man has to know his limitations.
The next night, I tried the home phone again, and he answered, just as he’s done for almost half a century. I can’t explain what happened before, why the number temporarily was wrong — unless, of course, it wasn’t. Unless it went back in time, and that was a younger me who answered.
If I’d known, I would have told him:
“Hello, teen me? It’s you, in the future. Don’t ask. Go tell Dad he’s an American hero and you love him. Don’t wait for Father’s Day. Also, buy Apple stock. But mostly tell him you love him.”
That didn’t happen. So I’ll have to say it here: Thanks, Dad. I got your number. Don’t ever change it.