I think we’re past the time of new phone numbers. We had a new phone number back when Interbel put in the rural party-lines in the sixties – 882-4678. If anyone else has it, it’s a second-hand phone number.
My first memorable second-hand phone number was in Chinook, Montana. I don’t remember the number, but I do remember that it was only one digit away from the bar’s number. Drunks really shouldn’t let their fingers do the walking for them. Usually after midnight, on a weekend, while I was sleeping.
Generally, I have “shouldasaids.” 15 or 20 minutes after the conversation, I come up with the brilliant comment that I should have said. Unfortunately for the second or third callers, I often was prepared with the right answer. The names have been changed to protect the guilty.
1:00 am – Mike blearily answers – Hello.
Female Caller – Is Jack Smith still there?
Mike – now awake – Let me check – has anybody seen Jack Smith lately? Oh, that’s it – He left about an hour ago with that long-legged blonde.
Caller – That no good SOB . . . this woman was really creative.
8:00 pm – Mike is awake and answers – Hello
Caller – Is Kirby Prescott in? He owes me 40 bucks.
Mike – You’d better get here fast, he’s losing money at the poker table.
Caller – Thanks Dude, you new here?
Mike – You called it friend – see you when you get here.
11:30 pm Mike wakes up, and answers – Hello
Male Caller – Is Diane Tennyson there?
Mike – Let me check. Has anyone seen Diane Tennyson here this evening? Oh, I see. Guy says she left with 3 railroad gandys to check out the rail car they live in.
Male Caller – What?
Mike – Guy says she left with 3 railroad gandys to check out the rail car they live in. You know, the guys that are changing crossties – the railroad parks their home car at the siding by the grain elevator.
Caller – click
It went on, nearly every weekend. If I had stayed there, instead of taking the job to teach at Trinidad State, I would have probably doubled or tripled the community’s divorce rate. Still, when I arrived at Trinidad, I got another second-hand phone number. That number had belonged to Dominic Quintero, and I was to learn more and more details about his financial status and credit rating. The first glimpse of Dominic’s credit rating was prophetic.
Mike – Hello
Caller – Dominic, you owe me money.
Mike – I’m not Dominic.
Caller – Dominic, don’t give me that s***.
Mike – Do I sound like Dominic?
Caller – You sound like a gringo.
Mike – That’s because I am a gringo and not a Dominic.
Caller – Do you know where Dominic is?
Mike – No, but am I right in guessing the phone company gave me his old number?
Caller – Yeah. You’re probably going to be getting a lot of calls. Sorry, dude.
This led to developing the game of where in Colorado is Dominic Quintero. Now I never met Dominic, but as time went on, I kept developing conjectures about where he had gone. Sometimes he had moved to Raton, sometimes Aguilar or Denver. After a year or two, the calls for Dominic fell off.
Later, when the phone directory came out, it listed two numbers for me. The first one was wrong, and a colleague told me that he had called it, and the guy who answered was unhappy about all the calls he was getting for me. I did call the phone company to see about getting the book corrected, but thousands of books were in circulation. It couldn’t happen until next year. With more friends and acquaintances telling me about Mr. Ortega’s rage, I gave in to an impulse and dialed him up, just to ask if he had any messages for me. He did, and it wasn’t very nice. I think he’s the guy who called the phone company in Pueblo and had my phone service cut off.
Our last strange repetitive phone caller was just before we retired and left South Dakota. The problem wasn’t the woman who moved in and got a phone number one digit different from ours. The problem was her sister – a woman of outstanding rudeness, an afternoon drunk and further proof that drunks shouldn’t let their fingers do the walking for them. Her usual style was to get about half smashed on a nice afternoon, and let the phone ring and ring until Renata came inside to answer it. Then she would reply with “Took you long enough. Were you on the pot?” or some similar greeting. We moved before we could condition her to quit calling. But I feel sorry for whoever got our used phone number.