For A Good Time Call…

When my husband and I bought our first home, the phone company gave us a new telephone number. The number we were given was recycled – meaning, it had previously belonged to someone else.  That “someone else” happened to be a girl named LaShawn.

Within a few days of receiving our new telephone number, it became clear that being the recipients of LaShawn’s old number was going to be a problem. Our first inkling occurred around 3 in the morning, when the sound of our ringing phone jarred me from sleep. I frantically jumped out of bed, fearing someone was calling with an emergency.

“LaShawn baby,” the voice growled, “It’s Tyrone. Where you at?”

“LaShawn?” I repeated, feeling instant relief. Everyone was okay. “I’m sorry. You have the wrong number.”

I was climbing back into bed when Tyrone called a second time. Tyrone was clearly disappointed when I answered, and he was even more disappointed when I explained that no, LaShawn was still not here, and I had no idea who she was – or where she lived.

Several nights later, we were sound asleep when the phone rang again. It was another man looking for LaShawn. When a third man called several nights after that, we started to suspect two things: first, LaShawn was popular with the gents. And second, she was giving out her old telephone number (which was now our new number) to men she didn’t want contacting her. I had a vision of LaShawn – young, slender and pretty – tearing off a slip of paper and writing down our telephone number for some creep who kept hounding her for a date. If these men hadn’t been calling our house at all hours of the night in their futile attempts to reach LaShawn, I may have found her idea clever.

At some point, it occurred to LaShawn that she could give our number to everyone, and not just the men hounding her for a late night rendezvous.  Soon, banks, medical offices, and even her family started to call. Our phone began to ring off the hook, with all sorts of people looking for LaShawn.

“LaShawn! It’s Aunt Tiana! Where you been hiding at girl?”

“Hi Aunt Tiana,” I said wearily, “But this isn’t LaShawn’s number anymore.”

“It ain’t?” Aunt Tiana said, “How can that be? She just gave me this number!”

“I know, I’m sorry. But this number used to be LaShawn’s. You see, my husband and I just moved into this house and the phone company gave us LaShawn’s old number.”

“Damn!” Aunt Tiana said, “Wait till I get my hands on that girl! Trying to give me her old number like that!”

“When you do,” I said, “Could you tell LaShawn that her doctor’s office called? And the results of her pap smear are in?”

“I sure will! Now, you take care! And enjoy your new house!”

“Thanks Aunt Tiana.”

Unfortunately, not all of the calls for LaShawn were as pleasant as Aunt Tiana. Our phone rang constantly throughout the day from creditors (let me be the first to tell you that LaShawn owed a lot of money, and didn’t seem too keen on paying these people back), social service departments, and former boyfriends.

I finally called our phone company in desperation and explained what was occurring. The representative was apologetic – and slightly intrigued – for the many intrusive calls we were receiving on behalf of LaShawn.  For an $80 fee, we could get a new telephone number. I asked if we could have a brand new number, one that had never belonged to anyone else. While that wasn’t possible, the representative explained, she could find a telephone number that had formerly been used for a computer modem. I took it.

Twenty minutes later, our new telephone number was active and our phone became strangely silent. When the phone did ring, it was someone actually calling for me, and not LaShawn. It felt like an older, popular sister had moved out of the house taking all of the drama with her.

Sometimes I think about LaShawn, and wonder if she’s made her Chase credit card payments, or if she and Aunt Tiana finally connected. I also really hope Aunt Tiana gave LaShawn the message about her pap smear results.

I’m Sorry … And I Mean It!

Last week my husband was on a flight to Boston when the stewardess spilled a can of V8 all over the man sitting next to him. The man was drenched – V8 juice soaked into his lap, suit jacket, and white shirt. Some even got in his hair.

“I’d like to apologize,” the stewardess said, “But it wasn’t my fault. The can exploded. I can’t apologize for something that wasn’t my fault.”

Outrageously, the V8 can never apologized to the passenger. Perhaps because it was lacking lips and a brain.

A similar incident occurred several years ago. A teenage driver was speeding on our street while texting and lost control of her car. She deftly landed in our yard, though she had to crash through our picket fence to get there. When the girl’s mother arrived at the scene, she studied her daughter’s car and our fence before saying, “This isn’t so bad.” She then proceeded to ask us to not report it to our homeowners insurance.

Of course we were going to. This resulted in an exchange of some heated words.

Woman: My daughter is a good kid. She was in church all day.

My husband: I was in church today too, but you don’t see me crashing through people’s fences. What if my daughter had been in the yard when this happened?!

Woman (looking around): I don’t see any kids.

A simple “I’m sorry” would have made all the difference. Had the woman apologized, perhaps we would have calmed down and not contacted our insurance. We may have taken the woman’s offer to give us money to repair the fence and left insurance out of the equation. But nothing in her attitude gave us the impression she would follow through with that offer. Responsibility was not taken. A much needed apology never given.

If the stewardess on my husband’s flight had apologized for dumping a can of tomato juice on a passenger, other passengers might have felt bad for her. They may have left the flight talking about how well the stewardess handled the situation. Instead they spoke of how rude she was, and encouraged the V8 drenched man to file a complaint with the airline. When she shifted the blame to the self-imploding can, it made her look callous and immature.

Research has shown that patients are less likely to sue a doctor over a medical error if the physician simply says, “I’m sorry” in a kind way.* Whether it is pride or fear of a lawsuit, many doctors don’t take the time to apologize, which only makes the patient more angry and wanting retaliation – usually in the form of suing the doctor who made the mistake. But if the doctor apologizes, anger is quelled and a lawsuit is less likely to happen.

In most circumstances, it seems that two little words can change the course of events in a very big way.

* sources: Apologies and Medical Errors and Physician Apologies

Losing It On The Job

“Would you care for some more lemonade?” the waiter asked.

“No thank you,” I said, studying my glass, “I think I’m good. But thanks anyways.”

The waiter stepped back – as though slapped – and held his hands up, palms facing outwards. After the waiter walked away from our table, my husband and I exchanged looks.

“Was it something I said?” I asked him.

“I don’t think so … but he did seem a bit offended.”

“Good grief! It was only lemonade!” I looked after the waiter before continuing, “Maybe he’s starting to snap and my declining another glass of lemonade is the tip of the iceberg.”

While we’ve all experienced bad days at work, most of us have managed to hold it together during those times. Granted, we may have been a tad snippy, but we didn’t tell our boss exactly what we thought of her, or lashed out at the difficult customer.

What would society look like if suddenly all social mores were tossed to the curb?

Here’s a glimpse:

The barista: What was that sir? You wanted a quad venti soy white mocha latte? Well, la-te-dah! Aren’t you all fancy and sophisticated. Here. Here’s a large coffee with good old fashioned milk. It tastes better than that fru fru stuff you call coffee. NEXT!

The gynecologist:  Hmmm … so it burns when you pee? I should have gone into psychiatry. Hell, I’m going to need a psychiatrist after doing this for a living.

The guest service desk at a hotel: Your room service hasn’t arrived yet?  Who do you think we have working in the kitchen? Superman? Guess what: You are one of hundreds of guests here and you’re no more important that the other ones. If you’re that hungry go find food on your own. Or better yet: go stay at another hotel. Have a nice day.

The historic tour guide: Hey listen, if your kid touches that vase one more time I’m gonna break it over his head. Seriously. And you! Over there! Didn’t I say no flash photography? What part of NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY do you not understand?

The waiter: This isn’t what you ordered? As my kindergarten teacher used to say, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.”

The fitness instructor: Who are we kidding? We both know you’re not going to stick with this diet and exercise regime. Don’t give me that look! This is the third time you’ve been to this gym and you joined two years ago. And spare me the, “but I rarely eat” song and dance.

The psychotherapist: Lemme guess: It’s not your fault and your parents were terrible. Newsflash: life isn’t fair and it never will be.

The classroom teacher: Why am I crawling out the window? Because I can’t take one more second of your incessant chatter. The 24 of you sound like mosquitoes buzzing in my ears. You’re going to tell your parents? Go ahead! I’m a member of a teacher’s union. Good luck!

Old Men Making The Moves 101

Perseverance is an admirable attribute. Monarch butterflies migrate over 3,000 miles on their fragile wings – persevering through harsh elements and predators – to warmer climates. Men and women serving in the military persevere through long separations from their families. Cancer victims persevere through treatments that often make them feel worse than the cancer itself. And some old men persevere, despite the odds, at the pursuit of younger women.

Whether these men think they’re still desirable, or they just want to give it one last shot, remains a mystery. But their tenacity is commendable and the methods they use to seduce their prey are rather intriguing. The wooing tactics old men commonly utilize can be narrowed down to three approaches: creative, debonair and reckless.

The debonair approach is considered the most commonly used method by old men in their pursuit of younger ladies. The debonair approach tends to include an invitation of some sort; such as dinner or a cup of coffee. The debonair approach also handles any rejection with dignity. While grocery shopping one hot August day, my mother was approached by an old man wearing galoshes and a raincoat (it was sunny out). He asked my mom if she would like to return to his apartment after she had finished shopping. When my mother declined, the old man shrugged and said, “Figured it was worth a shot” before walking away.

Other old men are not quite as bold and use a more flattering technique. A friend of mine was recently in the cafeteria of the hospital where she works when an elderly gentleman greeted her.  “Excuse me,” he said, “But do you ever get tired of old men telling you how pretty you are? Because you are prettier than free fried chicken.” In this incidence the creative approach was utilized. Other analogies that have been used in the creative approach are “prettier than Ava Gardner”, “prettier than Niagara Falls” and “prettier than a car hop.” The problem with the creative approach is that along with it sounding a bit odd, it also tends to date the individual.

Some old men throw caution to the wind and make their move with gusto. This can be defined as the reckless approach. The reckless approach is the most disturbing for the female because it often involves physical contact. An example of the reckless approach is when I was a medical social worker and an elderly patient grabbed my arm and attempted to pull me in for a smooch. After I wrenched myself free, the patient proceeded to purse his lips and make kissing noises. The fact that I was clearly disgusted meant nothing to him.  Typically, those who resort to the reckless approach do so out of desperation (or dementia), caring only about the end result and not so much as how they arrive there.

While the perseverance of old men pursuing young women isn’t as noble as, say, medical school or Navy Seal training – their efforts must be commended. As Confucius said, “It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.”

Pardon Me. I Just Need to Press Your Mute Button

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone came equipped with mute buttons? That way, when you realize a conversation isn’t headed in the direction you had planned, you could simply lean over and press the button and not hear what is coming next.

You would need to use these mute buttons wisely, of course. For example, you wouldn’t necessarily want to hit your doctor’s mute button when she enters the examining room and says,”We have the results of your CAT scan and it appears that you have cancer of the – BEEP!”

You also wouldn’t want to use the mute button with your boss. It probably wouldn’t be the smartest thing to hit your boss’ mute when he starts to give you a new assignment: “Starting tomorrow, you will need to – BEEP!” (Let’s be adults about this – the risk of unemployment far outweighs the pleasure of pressing his mute button.)

The mute button would be very beneficial with family – including children. “But mom! I just cleaned my room! It’s not fair! I – BEEP!” The family mute button comes with an extra benefit: Muzak. Instead of listening to your children whine and cry, you would hear Rod Stewart’s “Forever Young” performed on a synthesizer, which is the lesser of two evils.

Oh! And with coworkers. And Toppers. You know the kind: you have a headache, they have one too but much worse; you decide to take a vacation, they suddenly decide to do the same, only the vacation is fancier. How delightful if Toppers came with mute buttons!  “Oh you think THAT’S bad? Well! Wait to I tell you about – BEEP!

Mute buttons could also be used on yipey dogs next door. This would save you from those awkward conversations where you have to knock on your neighbor’s door and say that even though you think Pebbles is just so adorable, could they please not leave her outside for sixteen hours a day when she would clearly rather be inside?

Spousal mute buttons need to be handled delicately. As tempting as it may be, you shouldn’t hit this button willy-nilly. They may catch on. Be forewarned that spouses can also ask follow-up questions to make sure you were truly paying attention.

Lastly, we can’t become indignant when someone hits our mute button. It’s gotta work both ways.

The Saying Goes

When I was ten years old I  entered the house and greeted my mom with, “Hey! How’s it hanging?”  I will never forget her expression, or how I felt as she explained to me exactly what that phrase meant.

We all tend to use phrases incorrectly.  I once told my husband that I got the raw end of the stick. (Apparently, my ability to use idioms didn’t improve with age.)  Most of the time we use them in the correct context, but their meaning can be lost on others.  While other times, a phrase just rubs people the wrong way.

Here are a few examples:

Have a Good One: My 93 year old Grandmother summed this phrase up well.  When a cashier told her to “have a good one” my Grandmother responded,  “Have a good what?  Have a good s**t?”

No Offense: These two words are a red flag. Chances are – the person will take offense.  Let’s be honest here.  We rarely say,  “No offense, but you look great today!” or “No offense, but you are the smartest person I know!”  What follows “no offense” is generally bad.  Prefacing the insult with “no offense” does not lessen the blow, despite what some might think.  Offense IS usually taken.

If You Think About It:  You know how this is used: You’ll be having a discussion with someone and then they will say, “Well, if you think about it” implying that you haven’t given it any thought – but they have.

Don’t Take This The Wrong Way: See above comments on “No Offense”.

No Problem: This phrase seems to have replaced the good old fashioned “you’re welcome.”

Let Me Go: Typically, this phrase is used to wrap up a phone conversation.  “Let me go” is the signal that one person wants to get off the phone, but it infers that the other person won’t LET them hang-up.  Saying “let me go” is implying that you are being held hostage on the phone. “I should go now” is the politer version of “Let me go”.

It’s All Good: Um, no it’s not.  Just read the paper or switch on the five o’clock news.

Get Er Done: The fact that this phrase has sneaked its way into any conversation outside of the Louisiana bayou is a tragedy.  While its purpose is to encourage one to complete a task, one cannot hear the words “get er done” without envisioning a recently slain deer draped over the bed of a 1982 Chevy pickup truck that is littered with empty Budweiser cans.


These phrases may not rub you the wrong way.  After all, it takes all kinds to make the world go round.  So when all is said and done, we should just live and let live.