I started the first call…only for it to ring four times and go to an answering machine. I hung up. We didn’t ever leave messages, so that person’s number would just go through the system again and would be called by someone tomorrow. It was all automatic.
I smiled grimly, thinking of all the times my parents’ phone would ring, and someone would just hang up on the other end. They screened their calls and just let the answering machine take anything that was from a number they didn’t recognize. Some of the same numbers called daily, much to Mom’s annoyance.
“Why don’t they just stop?” she’d ask. “I’m not interested in whatever it is they’re selling.”
Now I was one of those annoying people who called…well, the computer called.
“H-hello?” The voice of an elderly woman cut in the middle of my wandering mind, snapping me back to reality.
“Hello, may I please speak with Mrs. Wilson?” Amazed at how steady I kept my voice, like the proverbial well-oiled machine, I half-thought it couldn’t really be me who was speaking.
“Um, Mrs. Wilson. Is she available?” Oh, boy.
“Oh, silly me. This is her. May I ask who’s calling?”
“Hello, Mrs. Wilson. This is Arianna from Affection for the Afflicted. Is now a good time to talk?”
“I’m afflicted with what, dear?”
“Oh, no…you’re fine, Mrs. Wilson. I’m just calling for an organization called Affection for the Afflicted. We help our people in Africa who have diseases like AIDS and malaria, who don’t have clean water, or enough food.” Just my luck that I would get stuck with someone who’s hard of hearing…or she’s got dementia.
“I have clean water and plenty to eat, dear. But thank you for calling.”
Tempted to sigh, I smiled in pain into the microphone. What was the point of continuing this conversation?
“Thank you for your time, Mrs. Wilson. Have a nice day.”
“Oh, you as well, dear.”
I ended the call. Funny that she heard me just fine at the end.
The next several calls remained unsuccessful. Mostly answering machines picked up, which wasn’t surprising since a lot of people would be at work, but I had one customer who offered to give me a tarot card reading. I figured if she was so clairvoyant, she should have expected my call in the first place and not acted all caught off-guard when she’d picked up the phone.