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Jim Walker: Misplaced calls and crises of conscience

Don't Take Me Seriously

Posted: May 18, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 18, 2012 1:55 a.m.

A few months ago, I got a couple calls to my cellphone from a "restricted" number. These calls were several weeks apart, and I let both go directly to messages. Both messages turned out to be from a certain local business, and both were intended for "Benjamin," who I am not.

Now, the first message was this business wishing Benjamin a happy birthday.

After only the briefest of hesitations - during which I considered a scenario wherein Benjamin had no friends and wherein this call might have made his day, week or year, should he have received it - I deleted the message and went on with my life.

Odds were, this was just a marketing ploy and Benjamin was not a recluse, and would thank me for dead-ending the scam, should we ever meet.

Well, that's what I told myself.

But, somewhere, a little voice nagged me afterward. Like a mouse scritch-scratching in a wall, it kept annoying me, and subconsciously accusing me of letting someone down.

Without realizing why, I began to have occasional dreams of Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Button and Benjamin Moore house paint.

Now, the Franklin dreams I tossed off to the influence of the History Channel. The Button dreams I figured were a fear of aging in general and the paint dreams I surmised were just the current version of "the thing left undone" dream that usually involves a college final exam for a class I forgot I was enrolled in.

And there were plenty of "left undones" to pin that one on without exhuming birthday Ben.

But, those several weeks later, when I listened to the message from the second call for Benjamin, my finger stalled over the delete button. I mean, this time Benji was being reminded of his appointment for "tomorrow."

This time, there was a ticking clock and, maybe, a life-or-death situation. But, just for a moment, I tried to tell myself two things: (1) This, too, could be a marketing ploy. Maybe old Benny didn't actually have an appointment, and the call was designed to get him to call in to tell them that, whereupon he would be sold something he didn't need. And, (2) The Ben-meister would be better off not dealing with a business that couldn't even get his phone number right.

I know ....

The first rationalization was too farfetched, and the second was just me being lazy. My upbringing rose to the back of my neck, and I could ignore this situation (which I figured would continue anyway, should I not put a stop to it) no longer.

So I sighed, grumbled and Googled the aforementioned business because it hadn't even left a callback number. I simply had to warn the company that the Ben-inator was not getting its messages.

I got the phone number, called ... and of course I got voicemail.

I left the appropriate message, but I couldn't help but wonder if I had been the victim of a marketing ploy, myself. I mean, think about it.

If this business sent out thousands of "Benjamin" calls like this to random numbers, maybe at least 62 fools like me would respond - and then they had our 62 numbers and thin but real connections with us to exploit. We'd already be tagged as "softies."

So, maybe an hour later, when my phone rang again, and I saw the "restricted" number, I was ready to fight and picked up immediately. But before I could launch into a paranoid rant, the nice woman on the other end thanked me for my call, double-checked that my number was not Ben's, and told me I would be bothered no further.

I slumped back in my chair, surprised by the pleasant result of my efforts, and patted myself on the back for saving the universe.

Now, I don't know if the business ever found the right number for good-old Ben. Maybe he called or stopped by, remembering his appointment, and they straightened the whole thing out. But, in any case, I did my good deed, got that crushing weight off my back, stopped the "Benjamin" dreams and stopped being annoyed by misplaced calls from that business.

Now, if I could only do something about the very-tipsy woman who calls now and then, accusing me of being "Sam," and telling me she still loves me and asking why I deserted her. My ex-wife always appreciated those messages on the home phone. But, like I told the ex, "Sam" was never one of my aliases.

Of course, I will probably never set the tipsy lady straight. I mean, I enjoy the attention.

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