Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Your call cannot be completed as dialed

When I moved apartments in Cleveland, I was very excited that I could keep the same phone number. I liked my phone number. It had been all mine since early July of 2001, and it was all mine through at least last December, when my free informational recording ("This number has been changed. The new number is...") was set to expire. I was very proud of my phone number.

I moved to a new place in June, 2003. Shortly thereafter, I began getting messages on my answering machine:

Hi, Mrs. Johnson, this is Dr. So-and-So's office, just calling to confirm your appointment tomorrow at 1:30.

Sometimes the messages went like this:

Hi, Mrs. Johnson, this is Dr. So-and-So's office, just calling to follow up on your appointment from yesterday. We missed you. Please call us back so we can set up a new appointment for you.

No one named Johnson lived in my house. I got tired of this pretty quickly, and I also felt some sense of obligation to help care for Mrs. Johnson, whoever she was. But the doctor's office never left a phone number, and the doctor had a rather unusual last name. So one afternoon I star-69'd the doctor and played the Good, Vaguely HIPAA-Compliant Samaritan:

Receptionist: Hi, Dr. So-and-So's office?
Me: Yes, I keep getting messages on my answering machine for a Mrs. Johnson, and I wanted to let you know that I have no idea who that is and maybe you should ask her again what her phone number is.
Receptionist: Uh, did you just move in?
Me: No, I've had this number for almost four years now.
Receptionist: We've been trying to reach Mrs. Johnson about her--
Me: Hey, I don't know who she is, and I don't want to intrude on her privacy. Just make sure you have the right number for her, in case you actually have to reach her by phone.

And that was the end of that.

Here in California, I have a different problem: people think my cell is the "pharmacy." One afternoon I got extremely bored and used reverse lookup on similar numbers. Oddly, all conceivable misdials were also cell phones owned by Verizon Wireless. I ask you: what pharmacy operates by cell phone?

I, too, am guilty of misdialing on occasion. Once, I thought I was calling Comcast, and instead I got one of those Chat Now with Hot Live Local Singles! lines. I figured I'd called 1-900-COMCAST, instead of 1-800-COMCAST, so to assuage my mortification, I put a 900/976 block on our line.

The other day I got a call at home which was eerily reminiscent of the tale of Mrs. Johnson:

Hi, Christina, this is Dr. Such-and-Such's office. We haven't seen you in a while and are wondering if everything is okay. Maybe you moved, or you got a new number, but please give us a call and let us know how you are doing.

So I called Dr. Such-and-Such's office. I've owned this number for a year and a half, and as far as I know, I'm the first to have it. I was all set to tell Dr. Such-and-Such's receptionist that I didn't know any Christina and that maybe they should double-check their records...

...but who should pick up but an overly enthusiastic recording, encouraging me to Chat Now with Hot Live Local Singles!

Either every unclaimed phone number in this area redirects the caller to Chat Now with Hot Live Local Singles, or I just have extraordinary luck in stumbling across such opportunities.

Trick or treat, dudes.

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