"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Bad Phone Karma

All week long, my spouse and I have experienced BPK. And since the phone is the primary connector in our relationship at the moment, it's extremely frustrating. Not to mention bizarre.

Sunday evening. He's at a hotel at Logan, Boston's airport. He calls me on his mobile to give me his room number so I can ring him right back. I do. Repeatedly. No answer, just the voicemail system. I keep calling back. At some point I tell the operator, "I know he's there. I'm positive. But he's not picking up." Eventually he phones me again to report that his phone doesn't work. He'd already called the operator to explain, "My wife's trying to phone me, I'm positive. The phone doesn't ever ring. Yet she left me a voicemail." They say they'll take care of it. Whatever switch they flicked didn't work. So they send up a new phone.

Monday afternoon (evening in London). He rings me on his UK mobile to give me his room number so I can ring him right back. I use the hotel number he left me and get a constant busy signal. So I look up the number on the web. This leads me to someone in the hotel office, clearly not the switchboard, but the guy connects me to the requested room. When I describe my difficulties, husband reads the hotel number off the phone--totally different. He complains that the phone sounds glitchy--a bad cord? During our conversation, there's a click, his voice suddenly disappears. I ring him right back. "Did you hear that?" he asks. "I didn't hear anything except silence." "Well I heard a woman's voice come on and say, 'You have a fault,' then the line went dead." "The thing is probably about to explode--send for another phone." He never bothered. As far as we know, his wonky phone is still sitting there, like a ticking time bomb.

Tuesday afternoon (evening in London). He phones to tell me he's in his room. I ring him right back. We converse. He tells me about his 3 meetings. No bad karma, as far as I recall. We are lulled into a sense of mastery over technology, and assume our dominance over communication devices will contiue when he reaches Ireland.

Wednesday afternoon (evening in Cork). He reaches me via his Irish mobile (my man's got lotsa phones) to tell me he's in his hotel room. I ring back. I mis-dial the international dialing code and get an automated voice giving me instructions that I don't want. I re-dial and connect with him. He asks me to check his email for him. He's trying to connect to his ISP via a landline, and it won't properly load the page for his email. BPK has struck again--twice!

Thursday morning (afternoon in Tralee). He phones on arrival in Tralee to give me his room number. I am still in bed, half-asleep, even though it's 10 AM--I hadn't slept much overnight, for which I blame a rollicking great read and my need to edit my own writing in my head. I memorise the number we agree to chat later.

Thursday afternoon (evening in Tralee). He phones after his pub crawl and before his dinner. I say I'll ring back immediately. Amazingly, I can remember his room number. I check his itinerary for the number of his Tralee hotel and start dialing. The last 3 digits are 8's. I pound away on the 8, then forget whether I've hit it 3 times yet. Thinking it will make absolutely no difference if I hit it again, I do. Instead of an Irish ringing tone, I immediately hear an American male saying, "Mike here." I wanted--expected--an Irish hotel operator. How did I get Mike? Who the hell is Mike? Instead of asking him, I hung up in a panic. This was a major BPK incident, and it seemed completely illogical. I had used an international dialling code, a correct country code, and technically I hadn't mis-dialled. It was just one little extra 8. Perfectly harmless, or so I thought. I re-dialled the hotel, carefully inputting the 3 8's. When I connected with my husband, I told him about the mysterious American Mike. He was as freaked out as I was. "That can't happen," he insisted. "I know, but it did."

I've been thinking about calling Mike back and ask him for an explanation. I know his number--it starts with 011 353, followed by the exact same number of a hotel in Tralee, plus one extra 8.

Is Mike out there somewhere, worrying about his own Bad Phone Karma?

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