Return of The Panic

Phones. I hate ‘em. I know I don’t have to explain this to any regular readers, but for those just joining us, I am phone phobic in the extreme, and will go to any lengths to avoid making or receiving phone calls – I have even been reduced to begging Terry to do it for me if it’s absolutely essential.

I particularly hate mobile phones. The very nature of mobile phones means that people are always going to call you on them at an inconvenient time. I mean, if I’m not at home, it’s because I’m out doing something. If I’m out doing something, then it’s not going to be a great time to chat, is it? Add to that the fact that it always seems to be a crappy connection, and there’s always loads of background noise outdoors, and, yeah, I pretty much hate being called on my mobile, and will avoid calling people on theirs, either, employing the same logic of “if they’re not at home, they’re probably too busy to chat”.  Sure, I’m surgically attached to my iPhone at all times, but that’s because of the Internet access and the apps. The actual phone part is for emergencies only as far as I’m concerned, which is why any time the phone rings, I immediately assume that it’s an emergency, and fly into a total panic.

Like I did today, for instance.

I’d just arrived at the dentist’s office to be fitted with my next set of Invisalign braces. I was a few minutes early, so I pulled out my phone to pass the time on Twitter and… whoops! Two missed calls, both from the same number, missed on account of the fact that I’d somehow managed to switch the phone to “silent”. The number wasn’t one I recognised. It wasn’t from any of my contacts, but whoever it was had wanted to speak to me urgently enough that they’d called twice, so I pulled up Google and typed in the area code so see where they were calling from, and work out from that whether I wanted to call them back or not.

The area code was from the town my dad used to work in up until the start of the year. He’s since moved offices, but still works for the same firm, so there was a chance they’d sent him to the other office for the day. And that he’d, I don’t know, DIED or something while he was there.

* PANIC *

(A little bit about my dad, here: my dad is the person I inherited my propensity to walk into doors and bang my head on low-hanging objects from. Not a week goes by – and I’m honestly not joking here – without him bashing his head on something hard enough to leave a mark. He works for a company who have a lot of heavy, dangerous machinery lying around. You can see where I’m coming from here…)

Well, I called my dad, got voicemail. Tried to email him, phone refused to send the email. And, at that point, I was called in to my appointment, so I got to spend the next 20 minutes lying with my mouth wedged open, PANICKING. It was the exact opposite of fun.

As soon as I was released, I called my dad again: nothing. So I called my mum, who assured me that if something had happened, she’d have been called first, and she hadn’t, so this meant all was well. I calmed down a little, but was still sufficiently disturbed that when I got home I typed the full phone number into Google. I didn’t expect to find anything, but to my surprise, Google found an exact match for that number, and not only was it from the town my dad used to work in, and possibly could be in at that very minute….

… it was from the MEDICAL CENTRE IN THAT TOWN.

I mean, what are the odds of that?

So, two missed calls from a medical centre in a town there was a good chance my dad was in: PANIC.

Well, I called the number, and asked why they’d been calling me. And they had absolutely no idea. “Are you a patient here?” they asked. “No? Oh, well, there’s no possible way for us to check why we were calling you, then. Maybe a wrong number? Maybe someone you know is DEAD?”

“If it was something really urgent,” I said, “you’d have left a message, right?”

“Oh no,” said the receptionist cheerfully. “We never leave messages! Have a nice day, now!”

Now, I immediately got back on the phone to my mum (I still don’t have my dad’s new office number, or I’d obviously have called him directly) who, as luck would have it, had just spoken to my dad a few minutes earlier, and was able to reassure me that not only was he alive and well, he was nowhere near the town these people had been calling me from. So all’s well that ends well, except I’ve lost a few years of my life to the panic, and have probably earned a few grey hairs into the bargain.

I just want to say, though, people: LEAVE MESSAGES. Seriously, if you’re calling someone, and you’re a medical centre, say, LEAVE A MESSAGE TO SAY WHY YOU’RE CALLING. Don’t just leave them to Google your number, assume some has died, and then not be able to find out who. LEAVE A MESSAGE. It’s what voicemail is for, and it would possibly have helped keep me just a little bit saner this morning. Possibly not, though. I mean, I am the Queen of Worry. I worry all the time, about everything. I can’t even hear an ambulance go past without assuming it’s rushing to the scene of an accident involving everyone I know. This morning’s events , though, took me right back to those dark days when Terry was ill and almost every single day brought a fresh reason to panic like there was no tomorrow. I’m every glad those days are over. I do, however, think there are important lessons to be learnt, here:

1. LEAVE A MESSAGE

2. Keep your phone switched on (DAD) so you can be reached in case of emergency

3. If you are a medical centre, never call me again. And for the love of Gaga, check you’ve got the right number before you decide to give someone else a heart attack…

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