New King Of The “Jerk” Tag

, , , , , , , | Related | April 2, 2020

This happened in my early teens. My house phone was being called dozens of times at every hour for a fortnight. The caller was some poor old lady who spoke only Chinese and was trying to get a hold of her son. She didn’t stop calling, pleading day and night to speak to her son.

My mother tried to explain to her that she had the wrong number, and that she had dementia and needed help, but she could never remember the conversation and would be back to calling and pleading five minutes later. We really wanted to help her, we really did. My mom was slowly piecing together details about her and was going to call for help once she learned who that lady was.

Unfortunately, my dad had other ideas. From the start, he dismissed this poor old lady as some sort of scammer and warned us never to talk to her. After a fortnight, he lost his patience with the whole affair and decided to fix it. He had learned from my mom that the old lady was in her nineties, and thus had probably survived World War Two.

So, one day, after she called yet again, my dad picked up the phone and went to me. He told me to yell a bunch of Japanese swear words into the phone, to someone he assured me was a friend of his and was interested in me learning a third language.

I was self-teaching myself Japanese — mostly from anime, which my dad hates and calls a waste of time — so I was very pleased that he wanted me to demonstrate my skills. I proudly yelled a couple of insults in Japanese into the phone, got a pat on the head and an extra hour of leisure time to watch more anime, and never thought about it for almost a decade.

It was only way later that I found it suspicious that the old lady stopped calling after that. My mom eventually told me what my dad had done, which he quite proudly told her after three days without a call. I’m not saying that it led to their divorce later in the year, but in the immediate aftermath, my mom did start sleeping in a different bedroom. I’m not completely sure he even thinks he did anything wrong, even now. He never understood why my mom cared for a stranger and why she was angry at him.

I really can’t forgive myself for doing that now. I really hope that I did not rekindle that poor old lady’s trauma from the war.

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