Larry has our exact phone number, but with a 216 area code, meaning he lives in Cleveland somewhere. This slight difference in numbers is too much for the people in Larry's life. Through the conversations I've had with these people and the sometimes very long messages they've left on my machine, I've gotten a pretty good picture in my head just what kind of guy he is.
- He has his own place. This is a landline number, not a cell phone indicating that he is almost settled down. Also, no one ever calls here looking for "Bud" or "Mike" or "Stacy", cluing me into that he doesn't have a roommate or a live-in cutie. (But we'll get to the girls later.) Larry has money in his pocket and is living in bachelor paradise.
- Larry has a hard time waking up to get to work on time. Occasionally, some very husky man will leave a message wondering where Larry is and why he isn't at the site. The husky man usually sounds pretty put out by Larry.
- Larry works some kind of construction.
- Larry has probably knows what it's like to be fired.
- Larry has friends who like to drink and then call people. The person they like to call is Larry, but they get me instead. It is very, VERY tempting to mess around with these poor fellows when you accidentally end up talking to one, but so far I've been very good. I've even gone as far as to remind them about the area code and they are always very apologetic. One actually tried to ask me out once in gratitude. What I can gleam about Larry from these guys is that you are almost always like your friends making Larry a heavy weekend drinker as well (which might account for the problems at work). But why is Larry not drinking with them? Hmm... Maybe Larry has made new friends? Oh, the drama!
- Larry is a ladies' man! Girls call looking for Larry as well as drunk friends and irate bosses. Their messages are short almost as if they don't know him very well. I can imagine his scribbled number (sans area code) on cocktail napkins slipped into sequined purses in smoky bars. The same girl has never call twice meaning that they are smarter then the area code puzzle or (and this one is more fun) Larry is the handsome, cool guy in the dark after a couple of Lemon Drops, but the light of day is something else entirely.
I think it's a fair account of Larry, a good character sketch to be sure. This has been going on for a good two years, maybe longer. And just this morning at 8:20, a blurry guy called looking for Larry. There was an angry, screaming woman and a barking dog in the background, making it so noisy I had to tell him twice that he had the wrong number.
But let's talk about Ellen. I said she's the opposite of Larry and boy howdy is that true. Ellen lives here in town and has the "322" version of our number, which is an honest and simple mistake to make. The people who call looking for Ellen are not as entertaining as Larry's calls, actually it makes me a bit sad when they call. Here's what I know about her.
- Ellen is a retired or semi-retired, but still very active. She drives and is the one in the bunch who drives her friends around. They leave messages confirming that's picking them up in the morning. Ever see a car full of little old ladies? That's probably Ellen behind the wheel.
- Ellen has lived around here a long time. We've been getting calls for Ellen as long as we've had this number, which is 13 years. I'm betting she's had her number a lot longer.
- Ellen has gentlemen callers. At least two different guys call Ellen and leave long, boring messages about what they are up to and wanting to catch up with her. They never call looking "Mr. Ellen". So I suspect she's a widow. One guy wanted to make plans to sit with her at the next spaghetti dinner.
- Ellen has grandchildren. Once a little kid left an adorable message for Grandma thanking her for the new pajamas. More fuel for the widow theory.
- Ellen can cook! Several times over the years some older woman has called RAVING about some dish Ellen brought to the meeting and begging for the recipe.
- Ellen goes to meetings where people bring food.
Okay, my picture of Ellen is a little sketchier than Larry's, but still fairly accurate I suspect. When the frail little voices call looking for Ellen, they seem so disappointed that they get me. They apologize and then, more often than not, call right back again a few seconds later, even more confused. That's where the sad comes in.
But here's the kicker. Go ahead and make a wrong number, no crime in that. But why are these people leaving messages on our machine? Our message right now is the kids rattling off our phone number and then suggesting you leave a message for our dog Marco, who is lonely. Is this a message that either Larry or Ellen would have on their machines? I don't think so. How can their people listen to our message and think "Oh good, I got the right number!"? We could change it and say something like "This is the Anderson's and not Larry or Ellen's", but where would the fun be in that?