There’s something about getting a call from a wrong number that just makes you feel … well, wrong.
One of my daughters started receiving calls from unfamiliar calls. A lot of unfamiliar calls. We’ve taught her not to answer calls from anyone she doesn’t know, but she was concerned when she listened to the voicemail.
Most of the callers appeared to be elderly, and they were trying to sign up to get the COVID-19 vaccine. She knew she couldn’t help them, but she didn’t think she could ignore them either. Talk about a dreadful situation for a teen.
I listened to one of them and did a little sleuthing online. Eventually, I found a nearby hospital set up a vaccine clinic with seven shared digits with my daughter, except their area code was 567 and hers was 419. Some people still struggle with overlapping area codes in northwest Ohio, it appears.
It turns out people I know on Facebook had similar issues over the years.
The family of one of my daughter’s classmates has a phone number that shares nine numbers with a hearing aid center, with the last digit different but just one row up on a keypad. “Trying to explain the error to individuals who are already having a hard time hearing often leads to confusion, and they call right back,” the mother wrote on Facebook. They even had one instance where fliers sent by the hearing aid place had their number on it accidentally.
A former colleague at The Lima News got in the holiday spirit one year when her number was one digit off from a number to call Santa Claus. “I had a lot of fun with that, talking to kids who misdialed while trying to call Santa,” she wrote on Facebook. Strangely enough, that’s similar to the story about how NORAD got into the business of tracking Santa Claus.
A coworker from my days in Virginia once moved to a different place and ended up with the number of a “long-closed beauty salon,” he wrote on Facebook. “But the salon was still listed in the Yellow Pages, so every year when the new phone book came out, I would get a bunch of calls asking how much a haircut or perm cost.”
The fax number for The Lima News’ newsroom resembles the fax number for an area hospital. About once a month, we’ll receive someone’s health information on our fax machine. Whenever I see those, I call the sender to let them know about the mistake, with the promise to immediately destroy our copy of the private health information.
My cell phone number previously belonged to someone who apparently isn’t very good at paying his bills and isn’t very good at updating the number on his accounts. A few times a month, I have to explain to someone that I’m not that guy. Sometimes they accept that answer, and sometimes they want to argue that I might actually be that guy. I laugh and tell them if I was going to make up a name, I could do a lot better than David Trinko. (No offense, Mom and Dad!)
As for my daughter’s wrong-number problem, we gathered a list of the numbers that called her and called that out-of-town hospital. After a little delay trying to figure out what to do, the woman on the phone agreed to take the numbers and pass them along to the vaccination clinic.
Callers to my daughter’s phone now receive a fairly gruff greeting from her dad, explaining their mistake. I’m omitting the hospital’s name and the clinic number since the hospital really didn’t do anything wrong. I also don’t want to encourage more calls to my daughter’s phone.
“If you’re calling about the COVID-19 vaccine, you’ve dialed the wrong number,” I say in her greeting. “Please don’t leave your information. The number you need to dial is … Notice that it’s a 567 area code for the (hospital’s name) clinic, not 419. Please dial the correct number. Do not leave a message. We will not pass on the information. Please stop calling this number.”
Hopefully, people get the message and stop calling her for vaccines. If it scares away the boys in her class, that’s even better.
David Trinko is managing editor of The Lima News, a division of AIM Media Midwest.