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Calling Is Sadly Her Calling

, , , , | Right | February 22, 2020

(The library has several regular callers: senior citizens who are lonely and just want to talk, sometimes for half to three-quarters of an hour. These folks are really good at ignoring any and all hints that we need to get on with our jobs. This lady is one of these customers. She calls once or twice a week to ask about famous celebrities’ biographies or about something she has seen on TV and wants to know more about. She’s very sweet but terribly chatty and “no” just isn’t in her vocabulary.)

Caller: “I am calling you because I am concerned.”

Me: “What are you concerned about, [Caller]?”

Caller: “There’s the cutest little corner store a block from me and I call over there now and then to talk to the owner and his wife.”

(She continues on in a lengthy, rapid-fire description of the husband and wife, their ethnicity, their business, and how she got to know them, before taking a breath to add:)

Caller:Anyway, I have been trying to call them all morning and there’s no answer. I know they are open because I called and spoke to [Wife] earlier.”

Me: “Okay.”

Caller: “But now they aren’t picking up and I am really worried because they are—” *another long explanation about their ethnicity, how long they have been in the country, and how innocent they are* “—and they might have been held up and robbed or killed!”

(I know exactly where this is going because my colleagues and I go through stuff like this with her constantly.)

Me: “I am sure things are fine, [Caller]. Maybe they are on the phone or maybe someone knocked it off and—”

Caller: “No, no. I am not getting a busy signal. I know something has happened. Please, can’t you call the restaurant next to them and have them check? I don’t know the number for the store or I would call myself.”

(From experience, I know that getting her the number for the next-door restaurant is not going to resolve the issue. I know the area — it’s not far from where I live — so I tell her I will call the store and ask them to check and get back to her. So, I call the restaurant and explain the situation; I can hear the owner rolling her eyes and laughing.)

Owner: “Oh, we know her. She only thinks she doesn’t know our number, but I can understand why you called. She gets confused. Hang on a minute.”

(There’s silence for a few minutes and then the owner picks up again. She is cracking up.)

Owner: “Oh, I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried! They are there. They haven’t been mugged. The store is actually closed today for inventory. They took the phone off the hook. Want to know why?”

Me: “I can guess, but tell me anyway.”

Owner: “They took the phone off the hook because they cannot get the inventory done with [Caller] calling them every half-hour to chat. Those two kids are losing their minds.”

(We talk a few minutes more and hang up. I call the lady back and tell her the following:)

Me: “Everything is okay, [Caller]. They are closed for inventory today and they took the phone off the hook because too many people were calling and interrupting them from getting their job done.”

Caller: *in righteous indignation* “That’s terrible! Those poor young people are trying to make their business work and people just won’t leave them alone!”

(I wish I could say this was the only over-the-top request. She made us jump through hoops at least once a week. The day of the Boston Marathon Bombing, I found myself searching for the name of her nephew in California. His mother, the caller’s sister, lived in Boston at the time and the caller was upset because she couldn’t get her sister on the phone to find out if she was okay. The sister, as it turned out, was three states away and her home was nowhere near where the marathon was being run! We got the number of the caller’s nephew and she called him and he told her everything was fine and to quit worrying!)

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