The phone rang.
“Is Beatrice there?”
“No,” Melissa said, “There’s no Beatrice here. I think you have the wrong number.”
“Oh,” said the caller, “I’m so sorry! I’ll try the number again.”
Melissa got back to work. An hour or so later, her office phone rang again.
“No, I’m sorry. Wrong number again.”
Half an hour later, again.
“Are you sure there’s no Beatrice there? Isn’t this Winegarden Psychiatric Hospital?”
“I’m really sorry,” Melissa said. (Why was she apologizing?) “But there’s no Beatrice here. This is Silverman’s Auto Insurance.”
“You’re certain?” the caller asked.
Melissa glanced around as if to double-check. “Yes, pretty sure.”
“Pretty sure or totally sure?”
“Totally sure. This is definitely Silverman’s.”
Melissa starting Googling. She searched for “Beatrice winegarden psychiatric hospital.” Right away she found a page for a Dr. Beatrice McMichael at the Winegarden Psychiatric Hospital in Massachusetts. She wrote down the phone number listed on the website — which was way different than Melissa’s work number. Not even the same area code. She kept the sheet of paper by the phone in case the strange lady called again.
But then she started to worry. What if she told the woman this other number and it wasn’t the Beatrice she was looking for? Dr. McMichael looked like the only physician by that name on staff, but what if the lady was trying to reach an unlisted nurse? Or a patient? Or a janitor? Melissa was helpful, always. She didn’t want to give this lady the runaround. Or worse, what if the woman thought Melissa DID know Beatrice by virtue of her suddenly having the number? Would she think Melissa had been a jerk during the previous calls by not volunteering this information earlier?
As she fretted over all the possibilities, the phone rang again.
“Hello? Is Beatrice there?”
Melissa panicked. “Um. Yes, this is Beatrice.”
“Oh, thank heavens!” the woman said, “It’s Harriet. I’ve been trying to reach you all day at this number and some crackpot kept telling me they’d never even heard of you.”
Melissa laughed. “Oh, that must have been Melissa. She’s kind of dense.”
“I’ll say!” Harriet laughed, too.
Melissa put Harriet on speakerphone and kept working. For the next two hours, Harriet told Melissa all about her horny brother-in-law who kept making inappropriate comments towards her whenever he got the chance. Meanwhile, Harriet’s husband Jim never said anything to his brother about it for some reason. This really bothered Harriet.
“What do you think I should do?” Harriet asked.
“I think Jim is being… well, a pussy.”
“You think Jim’s brother is cute though, don’t you?” Melissa asked.
“Well… yes, actually.”
“You should totally sleep with him.”
“WHAT?! No, I couldn’t. Really?”
“Yeah, really. You’re a beautiful lady. Go knock them boots!”
“You know what? You’re right! I’m only 58. I’m not dead down there yet.”
“That’s right you’re not. Go get’em girl!”
“I will! Thanks, Beatrice.”
After they got off the phone, Melissa felt happy that she’d actually helped someone. It helped her ignore how good it’d felt to be someone else for a couple hours.