Trouble On the Line

The topic of the week is about mistaken identities on the phone or strange/funny wrong numbers.

I nearly used up the story last week about how I was often mistaken for my sister on the phone either by all the relatives or when we worked together, which caused considerable communications problems at the office. She is quite a character and before we were married, my husband knew enough never to take the chance in mistaking her for me. He knew my sister could easily lead him on to say to her what he intended to say to me, but it got very old hearing him on the other end of the line ask “Nickie?” when I answered the phone at my family’s home…so much so that at one point I said, “NO, do you want to speak with HER?
From then on, he asked her she was me. He learned.

But wrong numbers have been a real problem for me.

A a few reoccurring ones happened. I once got a call from someone who identified herself as a writer and asked if she could ask me a few questions. The woman sounded suspiciously like my sister lowering her voice and since my sister was the one who always wanted to be a writer, I played along. The woman then asked me about gestation of horses. You see, when we lived in Colorado, our exchange was 433; in Boulder one was 443. A dude ranch there had the same number as we did, except for the wrong doubled number in the exchange and I got calls for them constantly, so much so that I learned much about the family who ran the place.
I got calls from workers who were running late coming into town,(sometimes in the middle of the night). I got misdialed numbers from their family and friends. I was asked about equipment I [they] had listed in the paper for sale. My son was asked if we were putting up hay even after he had informed the woman who called that they had the wrong number, (he was nine and very amused). The worst part was that a tourist guide that went to all of the major hotels in Denver misprinted my number as the ranch’s. I got so many calls that I said I’d be tempted to get a couple of horses and cash in on it, but I had a townhouse; not even one Shetland pony would have fit next to the deck. Finally, the manager of the Radisson called me to double-check his information, apologized and promised to straighten it out with the tour book people.

I never got another call asking for horses or hay.

Soon after we were married and had a new phone number, I was very surprised to get a call from an aunt of mine who never called me. After a comedy of errors, it was not my aunt at all, but a woman who sounded like her and, apparently, I sounded like the niece she was trying to reach. I had been getting calls for the woman who was a deadbeat and I could not convince the creditors that I was not her. (They even lied and told me they were from a carpet-cleaning service and had a deal for me/her.) I begged the people to look the number up under our name in the phone book, but it didn’t work. Then I knew why; not only did the woman have the phone number just before me, but I also sounded like her.

Before we arrived in this small town in Kentucky, almost everyone had had the same number forever and there had been one exchange: 348. About the time we moved in a boom started and they added another:349. Of course, I got calls for the 348-xxx number all the time, or one number off. There was a very , shall we say, popular female in the area and she had one number different than ours. Let me tell you, she got around. I let a drunkard ‘friend’ of hers get away with waking me at 3:00 AM a couple of times, but I finally gave it to him, the gist of which was that if he was going to get drunk and call “B”, he’d better be more careful about dialing the number and not scaring the wit’s out of people in the middle of the night , thinking it was some emergency. I bawled him out so bad he never called again.

I wonder if he ever called “B” again, for that matter.

Shortly after, they decided to put a racetrack in on the other side of town. I got continual calls for them, again, they were one number off and some people insisted that my number was listed for that place in a guide, AGAIN. I tried to get the track to approach the publication, but they blew me off. I instructed the family not to give the track’s number to callers; let the track lose business or get complaints, then maybe they’d straighten it out. During race season, I let the recorder,(pre-voicemail), screen my calls, with this message: “You have reached 502-349-xxxx; this is a PRIVATE HOME. If you wish to speak with the family, please leave a message after the beep. Thank you.” Yet, I often received messages such as: “Yeah, uh, I was callin’ to find out when y’all’s trials start”. Nobody listens.

One friend from Colorado used to make fun of me and whenever she’d want to talk, I got recordings like this: “If this PRIVATE PERSON in this PRIVATE HOME would receive a PRIVATE call from a PRIVATE friend…” Or “I have a horse I’d like to enter in a race”, even though it is a car racetrack. She found it all very humorous…SHE found it humorous.

Another “friend” here would call for years and always greeted my “Hello? with ”Is this the racetrack?” He also found himself very amusing. It was funny the first time…only the first time.

Here, people are paranoid. I do one misdial, caller ID kicks in and the people call me back to ask what I wanted, how I got their number and to stop bothering them…after one time.

One New Year’s Eve my sons misdialed when they calling my mother to wish her a “Happy New Year” at midnight. The woman whose number they misdialed called me several times afterward, telling me there were no coincidences and that I called her for a reason…there was no reason and she was unreasonable. It was obvious that she was disturbed so I talked her down. In a small town, it is particularly frightening.

My mother once received quite a number of calls in a row from a fellow with a heavy Spanish accent asking for “Rosita”; he simply didn’t understand that he was calling the wrong number. My mother had taken Spanish many years before, plus, Italian and Spanish are quite similar, but I could not convince her to explain to him in his native language that he had the wrong number. She was afraid he’s start a string of Spanish that she would no longer able to follow.

I often wonder if he ever found Rosita.

I did not intend to tell this story, but since Janette brought up a similar situation…
Some years ago my sister’s then-boyfriend used to call her in the wee hours of the morning during the break he had at work. One night he called her and asked, “What are you doing?” Although she had been sleeping, she said, “Waiting for you to call.” He then said something so outlandish to her that she never told me, but just as she said “WHAT?!!!” to him, call-waiting beeped in. At the time there were a few volatile situations in the family, so she told him, “Wait!”. She had every intention of reading him the riot act when she got back to him, but when she switched to the other line, there was her boyfriend; she had an obscene phone caller on hold …and had told him  she had been waiting for him to call! Ooops.

Can anybody top that one?

I’d love to hear any strange calls or comedy of errors on your phone.

Posted in Family, Friendship, Life, Tonette Joyce | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

We’re sorry, the number you have dialed…

We’re sorry, the number you have dialed…

By Jeff Salter

This week we’re discussing telephonic mishaps. There are various kinds: wrong numbers, mistaken identities (on either end), or, as some of the Foxes have mentioned so far… getting numbers that bring problems with them.

Let’s see which categories my anecdotes fit into.


When, as a very young military family at our first permanent duty station in New Mexico, we got our phone, little did we know that they’d given us the last four digits of the base information number. Yep. No longer remember the number but let’s say it was x-1234. In that town, in that day, you dialed only the last digit of the prefix and the four particular numbers. The exchange for Clovis was 7-1234, whereas the exchange for all the Cannon AFB numbers was 5-1234. I don’t recall the actual prefixes anymore, but suffice it to say that most of the people calling from Clovis assumed the base number began with their same prefix. So… they got our home phone instead of Base Information. After we’d received some three or four dozen of these calls, at all hours of the day and night, I begged the phone company to give us a different number. They would, they said, but had to charge us a disconnect and re-connect fee. So I pleaded my case to enough different people that someone in authority, finally, recognized we were not changing numbers on a whim but out of sanity-necessity. They gave us a new number. And I always wondered if they ever just voided that number… or continued to give it out to new schmucks who moved to their town.


When we were a younger family, we moved several times in a fairly few number of years. So we’ve had plenty of new numbers in new places. [ To any youngsters reading this: in the old days you did NOT keep your phone in your pocket/purse. It had a wire that was secured to the wall and the number stayed in the town that you just left. ] I no longer remember where, or how often, but I know at each new town, we’ve gotten calls – sometimes even years afterwards – from somebody wanting to speak with [whomever]. Sometimes we’d imagine it was a relative or old friend, but often it was a bill collector or investigator of some kind. In many of those instances, the caller acted as though we were actually shielding the party in question. As though the person they wanted was right there in the room with us and we were flat-out lying to the caller. In a few cases, their behavior was insulting. By possessing the number of that bad egg, we had somehow become as guilty as they’d been (for whatever they’d done to warrant that call).


At a huge military base (McClellan AFB) in Sacramento CA, our boss (Capt. Hawksworth) came into the newsroom, where the Lt. and I worked on the weekly base newspaper. He said, “I’ve just had an interesting call from McDonnell.” Of course we both knew McDonnell as the aircraft manufacturing company McDonnell-Douglas, and we probably had a half dozen of their planes on that complex. We were appropriately interested and he went on. “I assumed he wanted to tour the base, especially the hangars, but the caller talked about getting the base to participate in a joint promotional program.” We listened closer because we both figured he was about to assign us to the project. “So I rattled off some information and told them about the contract process and the legal concerns, etc., and the caller acted confused.” So were we. The captain continued. “Finally he said, ‘Look buddy, we’re just trying to drum up some burger business from the base’.” At that point Hawksworth grinned sheepishly. “That was when I realized I was talking to McDonald’s instead of McDonnell-Douglas.” A logical mistake for an Air Force officer. He left our office space shaking his head. We both figured we’d never get a burger coupon.


About a week ago, my fancy new semi-smart phone received a text message:  “Hey its [a girl’s name]. Wanna hangout today? And would u be able to pick me up at 3:10 at [a local high school name]??.”

Well, I’ve been propositioned before, but this was my first time by text message. So I replied, “I think you have the wrong number.”

She replied. “Sorry that girl took my phone.”

I wonder what would’ve happened if I had not corrected her about the wrong number and just let her boyfriend get into trouble for not showing up at 3:10.


What about YOU? Ever had any phone mishaps?

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Sorry, Wrong Number

After a big ol’ cross country move from the southeast USA to the Pacific Northwest, naturally I had to get a new landline number.  I mean seriously, do you really think the telephone cord is going to stretch 3000 miles?  Of course if you think I still use a phone with a cord, I have some property west of my new digs I’d like to sell you.  (True story.  I actually typed “east” first having been so used to living in FL and using some East Coast landmark city.  Miami Beach, Daytona Beach, St. Augustine as the locale for where my dream locale was located “east of”.)  Notice I said “use” not “own” or “have” because yes, I most certainly do own a corded phone.  But if it was a rotary one, I might be hocking that on eBay as a collector’s item.

Anyhow, with the new phone number comes lots of calls for a previous owner of said number.  So can someone tell me why, why, WHY OH WHY, do I always seem to end up with the number of some irresponsible clown so that I have darn near every credit agency bugging the crap out of me?  It wouldn’t suck so bad if these people would actually respond after my first, “Hello?”  But some of these computer auto-dials now require a third hello before a real person comes on the line.  My first hello is always a normal-sounding one.  You know, just in case my mother is calling from some weird number.  My second hello is always louder and longer with just a pinch of essence of annoyance.  Should a third hello be required (because I hauled my butt from a different floor and if I made all that effort just to get to the irritating ringing noise, dammit, somebody better respond on the line), there is no hint of annoyance.  Oh, no buddy.  You get my full-fledged, three-syllable, why-the-hell-can’t-you-respond-properly-the-first time “Hel-LO-OH!”  At which point they hang up on me and probably scratch my name off their list because I am that scary.  Or they stupidly launch into their ridiculous spiel on how they can save me money, blah, blah, blah.  Or the worst is a stubborn creditor who does not seem to get that the person they are trying to reach does not live here, I do not know them, I do not care to know them, I can not nor will I confirm the mailing address, or my personal identity.  Take THAT you filthy scum scam artists!

I admit, Caller ID is a most wonderful invention.  I’ve had some form of it going back to 1992 when I had a bit of a stalker problem.  (Unfortunately, the cops couldn’t do anything about it because the weirdo called from a pay phone nor had he threatened me.  Fortunately, no harm came to me and I am still here 22 years later.)  But I still recall the sense of power I felt with getting a phone call and not feeling compelled to answer it because I didn’t recognize the number.  Call Tracing was another one of those features I used.  Of course that one is less useful these days since calls seem to be routed through call centers in some other location, but it felt so high-tech back then.

Anyhow, back to my current situation.  I tend to take most of the calls I get right now because despite the above impression I’ve probably given, I like to think I’m a pretty nice person.  A busy person, but nice enough to kindly let those folks who can answer after my first hello that Joshua Gordon no longer has this number.  No, I don’t know how you can reach him because I never knew him and am most definitely not related to him.  Sorry, wrong number.

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Telephone mistakes, mistaken identities, wrong numbers, funny calls, etc. The closest I’ve ever come to any of that would be the many times I’ve called the wrong person when I thought I was calling someone else. That comes from the quick dial single touch dialing system on cell phones. Not too funny, but sometimes embarrassing.
And speaking of embarrassing, my cell phone is possessed by demons! one of the things it does is it tells me someone else is calling instead of the actual caller. That’s been embarrassing sometimes, too. Like when it told me my bf was calling and it was someone else. Need I say more?

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

I don’t speak your language …

Welcome to Monday

Today is the 18 August which is the 230 day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 135 days remaining until the end of the year.

We’re staying with the topic of “mistaken identities” – or telephone mistakes or “funny wrong numbers”.

I have to admit, I lack Jeff’s ability to remember those things, but I think I could truly say, I haven’t had “a mistaken identity” on the other end of the line. What I have done, though,  was during the very first years at my job here in Australia, I answered the phone in German.

We were still in an ‘open office’ with about half a dozen of staff members working there. It was quite a buzz in the office that moment, not sure whether it was stress, or recess or something … the phone rang, nobody answered so I did. Within seconds, the office turned quiet, and I looked up with everyone staring at me.

“You’re talking German,” someone whispered to me.

I didn’t click straight away, and there was a long pause, when I heard the caller say “hello hello … is this ….”

I’m sure I turned red like a tomato, I was so embarrassed.

Any “phone etiquette’s” you’ve broken ?

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Mistaken Identity

The topic this week is: Have you ever been mistaken for anyone else? and I can say,” Yes, many times”.
Most of the time, I was mistaken for my sister. She’s seven years older than I am and we don’t look alike at all anymore, but for decades, as soon as I looked like a young lady, the trouble began.

Most of the problem was that strangers would wave at me and I would not respond. Rumors would fly that the person had fallen out of favor with my sister and feelings would be hurt. More than once mutual friends were called upon to straighten out the non-existent problem, and sometimes the calls would go to my mother…who, before she figured it out, would blame my sister’s nearsightedness! As much as we seemed to have looked alike, apparently we sounded even more so over the phone. Whenever I answered the phones I was often greeted by ,”Nickie?”, especially by family members. It drove me nuts that it continued long after she had moved out and I was still living at home. It only got worse when we worked in the office of a small business together, believe me.
Only once was she ever mistaken for me, and it was a set-up. The fellow had not seen me in a while and was running into my house in the rain. My sister met him at the door and through rain-splattered glasses he saw what he assumed was me and called her my name, as my sister had hoped…I married him anyway.

In last week’s post I mentioned that a friend’s small children saw Teri Garr on TV and thought it was me, but that hardly counts. Here’s the biggest mistake, or, rather, series of mistaken identities.

Nearly 30 years ago my husband was teaching at a small, private academy in Colorado. We lived in a house on the a property to supplement his meager salary and with only a little lawn-mowing or snow shoveling on his part, and door-keeper on my part,(letting people in after hours and weekends), we lived there other-wise rent-free. You can imagine, I was always there for one reason or another even when school was in, if any kid needed something or someone forgot anything, I was available for quick loans of anything from Tylenol to crockpots. I enjoyed the diversion, since I had two children under two when we moved there.

One day just before the beginning of term I entered the school and the headmaster said, “You were just here.” He explained that a woman came in to register her 3 kids in middle and high school grades and said, ”I thought, ‘It’s Tonette!”.
I met Diana a few days later. She was a taller, bigger and a little older woman than I was, but I could certainly see a resemblance. We became very friendly. Her children were reserved kids and Diana told me that she never saw them warm up and speak so freely to anyone before. We both came to the same conclusion…The felt that they knew me. Subconsciously, I was another “Mom”.
In fact, one day I as I walked up to the school, I saw her husband sitting in his car and I stopped to speak to him He was grinning greatly and had trouble not laughing as we spoke. Finally he said, “I have to tell you, when you came walking up from that way I thought, “What the hell is she doing coming from down there?” Diana had gone in the school in the opposite direction; he thought I was her.

I had also made friends with the new first grade teacher that year. Her husband would come in to help her set things up, or to see their son, who was a student there and we also got along very well. Don was Italian from the Northeast, like my mother and relatives; we had a lot in common.
At graduation, Roberta, the first-grade teacher, waved me down at the reception in the lower-level.

“Have you been down here all evening?”, she asked me. “ For most of it, yes”, I answered. She said, “Don just came up to me with his eyes big and round. I said, ’What’s the matter?’, he said, ‘ I was just upstairs talking to Tonette and then I realized it wasn’t her!’ Who was it? I asked him. He just said,’I don’t know!” I knew what had happened. I found that Don and Roberta had never met Diana. “Where is Don now?” I asked. Roberta said, ”He’s in the car. I better take him home.” So while she drove her rattled husband home, I found Diana upstairs and I shared a laugh. “Is that what that was?” she asked. “I thought he was just very friendly and all of a sudden he just…left”. Poor Don thought he’d entered The Twilight Zone.

Diana and I tried to find common ancestry. She was German and Irish, my Joyce side is Irish, so we thought, you never know. She knew a few of her family names from Ireland, but although the names are Irish as far as we can trace on Dad’s side, we haven’t found our way back to the Old Sod.

My husband and I bought a place of our own and coincidentally, it was very near Diana’s house, but her kids had left the school. We remained friendly, but we traveled in different circles. We kept in touch occasionally. One day I went into my regular gas station to pay and the cashier said to me, ”I’ve been meaning to ask you…do you have a sister in town?” I said that I did. She said, ”I thought so! She looks like you?” I told her, yes. “She has a big boy with her, right?” I said, “No, she has a really tall daughter.” The cashier said, “No, this is a really big boy. He’s nice; he comes in and pays, he pumps the gas…” She shook her head.”Oh, I guess I was wrong.” On the way home I thought of Diana’s son, who was a large fellow. I called her and said, “You go to the Amoco station on Wadsworth, right?” She was surprised that I knew that; I told her how. We laughed again.

Time went by and Diana called me for the first time in quite a while. It was on an election day. “Did you ever work as an election judge?”, she asked. I had for several years previously. “It had to be!” she laughed. She had voted earlier in the day and a woman judge insisted that they had worked together at previous elections…and she wouldn’t let it go. Diana thought the woman was crazy since she told the woman she had never been an elections judge… until it dawned on her that maybe it was me. It was. The funnest part was that I had just gotten back home from voting. I had seen the woman judge and wanted to speak to her, but when we made eye contact, she dodged me, and went in the opposite direction, which I thought very strange .I guess she just couldn’t face going through all that again! Diana and I really had a good laugh then!

Some years later an Irishwoman who worked with my sister loaned a book to us about Ireland and in it was a map of with Irish family names and the location of their ancestral homes. “Joyce’s Country” caught my eye and there, next to it, I saw the name “Taller”; that was one of the family names that Diana had given on her Irish side. Again, I made a call to her. But this time, we didn’t laugh, we were in awe. I guess we’ll never know, but perhaps we have a common ancestor…and in the past we could have been mistaken for her.

Any thoughts?

Posted in Family, Friendship, Life, Random thoughts, Tonette Joyce, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

You think I’m who?

Mistaken Identity

By Jeff Salter

            We’re blogging this week about mistaken identities… namely whether we’ve ever been assumed to be someone else (presumably somebody famous).

            I’ve actually had at least two identities ascribed to me.

            In the years I was clean-shaven, I had a bank teller say how much I resembled David Stockman, who was (at that time) budget analyst for Pres Reagan. Truthfully, I did see a faint resemblance, but only faint. I guess we could have been cousins.


            In my years with a gray beard, I’ve had a waitress ask me if I was John Grisham, the author. Frankly, I never saw any resemblance whatsoever — I mean, Grisham doesn’t even have a gray beard! But I thanked her anyhow and gave her a nice tip.

John Grisham

            Of course, there were some years when I was mistaken for the dashing young Bonanza star, Michael Landon.  You decide for yourself.


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