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?

About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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17 Responses to We’re sorry, the number you have dialed…

  1. I grew up in a country far from here- Malaysia. In fact, I never lived in the U.S. until I was dropped off for college so unique situations were the norm rather than the exception. It was a common occurrence in Malaysia to have your line tapped by government officials checking on what the big oil companies were doing. (My dad worked for one of the biggest.) I pity the folks that had to listen through hours of teen girls chatting about everything under the sun…and by that I mean, boys! Anyway, because of all the listening in, sometimes lines got crossed and we could hear all sorts of random conversations. This one time, I picked up the phone and it was two government officials discussing rigging a local election! I made sure I made a ton of noise so they’d hang up! No one ever came to our house, but we sure could hear the pings and crackles of listening devices a whole lot more after that point!


  2. I am so amused by the McDonald’s story, Jeff! and as for being propositioned…Does Denise check your phone?LOL!
    It seems a great number of us get new phone numbers recently abandoned by deadbeats.


  3. Okay, I totally remember those calls from bill collectors wanting to speak to the previous owner of the phone number I currently had – and they were mean! They really did think we were shielding or hiding the person they were trying to find!


    • jeff7salter says:

      Exactly, as though — if we really WERE shielding someone — we’d stand there on the phone and argue about it. If I WAS shielding someone, I’d just say they moved to a farm in Montana.


  4. Janet Butler says:

    There are too many of these kinds of things to count–including kids who loved to call one of our numbers when the last four digits spelled out an obscenity. But my favorite of all was the woman who called me in Chicago from Scotland not once, but twice, looking for her daughter Bettina at my number. After I convinced her first of all that I was not Bettina, disguising my voice, I dared to suggest she may have misdialed. To say she denied that vehemently would be putting it mildly. And she did, in fact, treat me as if I were one of Bettina’s friends, hiding her. She asked me where Bettina was, to which I could only say, “She could be anywhere, since I have no idea who she is.” To my polite inquiry as to whether she had the right number, she responded that this was the number her daughter had given her. Now, I did NOT say what I was thinking, which was, “If this is how you typically act, no wonder she doesn’t want to be found.” But I must confess that the second time I went through this entire interrogation, I was tempted to!


    • jeff7salter says:

      Janet, the calls from kids would have driven me crazy.
      You handled the call from the lady in Scotland marvelously, with a lot more patience and tact that I figure I could have rallied.


  5. jbrayweber says:

    Can’t say I had any mishaps…that I remember, anyhow. But I did fall asleep many a time in the wee hours of the morning while talking to boys. We just didn’t want to hang up with one another. 🙂


  6. Theresa says:

    I got one just last night wanting to know when visitation hours were. What??? Finally she said, at the prison and it clicked in my head. I had already told her she had a wrong number but at least I was able to figure it out. It’s the second wrong one I’ve had recently, but the first simply asked if I was the sheriff’s office so no confusion there. I’m thinking the jail here though must have a number similar to mine.


  7. Micki Gibson says:

    Fun post! Yes, I may be younger than you, but I’m old enough to remember corded phones. I even remember rotary phones. And, seeing your post title, I can still hear it in the automated lady’s voice. Your McDonell/McDonald’s story is funny. Great! Now I’m hungry. Why yes, I would like some fries with my airplane. 🙂


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