The adventures of a New Jersey college professor with very strange friends, colleagues, and family members.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Cross Purposes

Several days ago, I was sitting in my office here at Very Serious University frantically preparing a syllabus for a summer class in Science Fiction which I somehow got roped into doing. Not much was going on; the term was over and most of the other professors were out on boats somewhere.

As I was trying to figure out which Harlan Ellison stories to include, my phone rang.

"English Department, Professor BeowulfGirl," I said, pleasantly.

"Hi," said a cheerful female voice, "I live in half a trailer with my handicapped brother, and my mother has dementia."

Confused, I said, "I'm sorry, were you trying to reach me?"

Equally confused, she said, "isn't this the Atlantic County Improvement Authority?"

"No, this is a college," I said.

"Oh, I'm sorry," she said, and went away.

Back to Science Fiction. The phone rang again. This time it was a woman who started off with: "Hello, I was hit by a truck while I was walking my dog."

Knowing my priorities, I asked; "how's the dog?"

"He's fine," she said, "but I'm on crutches."

It turned out that she wanted a wheelchair ramp installed in her home. I explained that I couldn't help her and curiously said: "Do you mind if I ask how you got this number?"

"It was in the paper," she said.

Thoroughly baffled, I started roaming the halls in search of a professor that had that day's paper. When I finally found one, I found out what the problem was.

Apparently, the Atlantic County Improvement Authority has a program by which they offer grant money to residents with low income if they need improvements on their house. Because the guidelines are strict, everyone felt compelled to tell me their whole life story in the hopes that they could be moved to the top of the list. The problem, though, was that the ad in the paper had transposed the last two digits of the A.C.I.A.'s phone number so that it was now my direct line.

Horrified, I got on the phone with Information and asked them for the correct number. I then called the A.C.I.A. to tell them that there was a mistake in their ad. They were very apologetic, but of course couldn't do anything about it since the paper was already out.

Later that afternoon, I got a call from a woman who began with: "Hi, I have mice." I gave her the correct number and she hung up.

A half an hour later, an extremely ancient woman called who, feebly, said: "Hello, I'm eighty-four years old, I'm poor, and I live in my son-in-law's garage." I felt very bad that I couldn't help her because she reminded me of my grandmother.

The best one, though, was the guy who called late in the afternoon who said, in an entirely too happy voice; "Hi! I was just wondering if I could get work done on my house while I'm in prison."

I sincerely hope he didn't waste his one phone call on me.

And I never did finish the Science Fiction syllabus...


  • At 4:54 PM, Blogger Aithne said…

    I don't think you *needed* the science fiction sylabus after that!


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