To Answer or Not To Answer, That is the Question

I’m one of those people who hesitates to answer the phone if I don’t recognize the number or the caller.

If the call is local, I’m more likely to answer. An eight hundred number, forget it. An area code from one of the states or cities I’ve lived, or a family members lives in has a better chance of getting picked up than some.

Telephone Keypad

(Photo credit: Chris Campbell)

Doctor’s office calls always get answered as do calls from hospitals. If detectives and police officers are your friends or on a volunteer committee with you, you’ll be needing to answer blocked calls, which can be very dicey.

If you have teenagers or young adults in your life you might want to reconsider the “to answer” or “not to answer” protocols you’ve set for yourself. Police stations and sheriff’s offices can show up as an eight hundred number, for that “one phone call,” or to convey other important logistical information.  I’d rather not tell you how or why I know this. Just believe me on this one.

Caller ID has the benefit of preparing us for whoever is on the other end of the line. You know whether to answer with your usual relaxed voice, or with an “I’m busy, get to the point quickly” voice. MSH has a menacing voice he answers with, which is handy for him, not so great for the caller. I have a friend who has some pretty funny ways to answer the phone that leave the caller a bit confused or bemused or simply laughing.

Some calls you  just can’t prepare for.

One lovely Saturday, I jumped up to peek at the caller idea when the phone rang.  Surprised, I saw one of our local hospitals identified as the caller. I caught my breath, then answered before it could push over into voice mail.

“Hello?” I said tentatively, as I reviewed where my children were, who had which car. My brain had kicked into high gear, the engine racing, the RPMs off the chart.

“Hello?” I heard back from a kindly sounding woman with a hesitating voice.

It was bad news, I could tell from her hesitation. I began to shake.

“Yes?” I squeaked out as my panic rose.

“Who am I speaking to?” the woman asked.

I told her my name. I signaled MSH, who was sidetracked by whatever it is on Saturdays men get sidetracked by. Food, TV, a project, lint. Who knows. He was oblivious. I leaned against the wall for support as my knees began to shake.

“Well, Kami,” the woman hesitated again, ” I’m afraid, it looks like…”

She stopped mid-sentence. I slid down the wall. I could hardly hold the phone to my ear. I thought they sent a police officer to your door for bad news like this. Maybe there was still hope, maybe we could get to the hospital on time.

I tried to breathe, but it was nearly impossible.

“Well, Kami Tilby,” she began again. “It appears that I have dialed the wrong number.”

I had sunk to the floor, my voice stuck in my throat. “Oh. Okay. No problem,” I managed to say.

She hung up.

I dropped the phone.

It was a full thirty minutes before my heart beat resumed its normal rhythm.

My kids couldn’t understand why I hugged them so hard when I saw them that day. I found myself placing a hand on their bedroom door when they were home, feeling contentment in knowing where they were and how they were at that small moment.

Caller ID is one of those blessings that carry a curse. You never really know what you’re going to get.

Categories: Family, parenting | Tags: , , , , , | 11 Comments

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11 thoughts on “To Answer or Not To Answer, That is the Question

  1. So glad to hear they called the wrong number!!!! and I am totally guilty of phone screening! I almost never answer my phone…after reading this, maybe I should


  2. Leanne

    hahaha When did this happen? How old were we?


  3. muskogeetech1

    Reblogged this on Why you don't want to be noticed on the internet.


  4. I HATE answering the phone. Or listening to messages. Or dialing it, or talking on it. I’m so happy email and now texting is available. Before these, I was a letter-writer. Which worked for me, but most people wanted an immediate response. I understand that, but the phone seems so jarring and intrusive to me.
    Glad it was a wrong number for you! Those official calls are the worst. So awkward. And I feel so bad for the person making them.


    • I’ve always been a bit phone averse, even as a kid strangely enough. I’d prefer a face to face interaction, so much more is communicated and it’s easier to clarify. Happy to know I’m not the only one who feels like you do.


  5. I do the same… so if you ever call – expect me to not answer – leave a message and I’ll get back to you. I have to do this, otherwise I end up in a verbal battle with about a dozen sales calls every day. Guess I should look into the DNC listing again as it must have expired! 😀


  6. Nice! Personally I like getting a wrong number, I view it as an opportunity to have a little enjoyment in the day. I just wrote about it, check it out!


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