Anonymiss in DC

{December 30, 2008}   Wrong number, anyone?

Today is my first day back in the office after the holiday, so I expected a little bit of lunacy, but nevertheless, I was entirely unprepared for the little gem waiting for me on my voicemail.

I get into the office and my phone is lit up bright red and it says I’ve missed three calls. THREE? That’s kind of shocking– I’m really not important, to be honest, and nobody usually leaves me messages– and it was just Christmas like 4 days ago!

I don’t recognize the numbers stored in my caller ID log, so I dial up and get the following message, which I’m typing up in its entirety because there’s just no better way to do it.  Keep in mind that my work has NOTHING to do with the Middle East. At all. Zip. Zero. Nor am I a reporter.

My automated phone system calmly informs me it’s about to play my first message. “Message One. Sent: Yesterday at three forty nine pm.”


And then, suddenly (and quite unexpectedly), I’m being screamed at by a very angry Texan man who apparently thinks I’m the Associated Press.

Actual transcript (Enjoy– I played it over again like 6 times to get this down correctly):

“Yeah, this is a news organization…well why don’t you fix your phones so we CAN be a news organization! Your phones don’t work half the time!

Now I’m not gunna use any ugly words so don’t think I’m goin’ to!

But I’ll tell you what we’re tired of: we’re tired of this biased reporting on the part of a bunch of silly liberal writers that don’t know the difference between retaliation,  the word retaliation,  and what you do when you want to stop somebody from sending missiles and martyrs over on top of your head!!

It’s not retaliation!


And please stop saying “Oh the poor Palestinians! Oh! The poor Palestinians!”

Hey, they’re the perpetrators– they’re not the victims! Get right with the program,  you silly bunch of fools!

Watch your country implode!!

Watch it happen!

Aaaand thank you!”


I am slightly horrified.

I have HATE voicemail?!

Fortunately, the next message happens to be from a much more rational guy from some newspaper in Pennsylvania who was wondering if I could help him get some more information about an article “I” ran on the Treasury.

First the Middle East, now the Treasury Department?! What the…?

I’m utterly baffled, so I decide to call this very nice reporter who informs me he called the Associated Press Washington Bureau and got a “very cranky man” who gave him my phone number in response to his inquiry. He literally goes digging through his recycling bin to find the piece of paper on which he wrote my number to see if he can find the number he called to get the cranky old man. We chit chat for a few minutes, he apologizes for having bothered me (to which I laugh), and we hang up.

And then I call the Associated Press, who tells me that they’re really sorry, but people must be misdialing my number, which is similar to the number for the Business Desk.  They give me the number for the actual business desk (AKA, not me, who has absolutely no ties with AP and who knows nothing about the middle east NOR the treasury department.)

And next, I decide, because I’m a troublemaker, to call the crazy Texan man to give him the actual number for the people he wants to scream at.

What the hell, right?

So I dial the number stored by my handy-dandy office caller ID, and I get the guy. It occurs to me for a second that I am probably insane, but I manage to say “Hi, I just wanted to let you know that you called and left me a message about an Associated Press article yesterday but you had the wrong number.”

And whaddya know, the guy is tremendously gracious.

“Well aren’t you somethin’- callin’ to let me know! Not a lot of people would do that!”

And I give him the real number for AP (probably not a good deed), and the next thing I know he’s asking me what I actually do since I’m NOT an AP reporter, and I tell him, and he starts telling me about his world travels, and all this stuff he knows about poverty in Africa… and he tells me that he produces oil and gas… and that he wanted to fly planes for the army back in ’67, but instead he got recruited to do intelligence because he had poor eyesight…and that he did eventually get over to ‘Nam…

And I’m sort of enjoying listening to the guy for a second until I realize that this is CRAZY and that I’m at work and probably should get off the phone.

But what a weird day! I come in to my very quiet office in DC– no one is even back from break, get screamed at over voicemail by a man I’ve NEVER met and never WILL meet for something I have nothing to do with… and then ten minutes later I’m shooting the breeze with him like we’re old friends catching up in some cafe in the middle of bumble.

Never a dull moment. 🙂

And I realize that I overthink things, but I must reflect:

The hardest part of being a “silly liberal fool” (as I’m sure this guy would have called me if we’d talked about anything substantive) is my complete inability to understand how people, who I am convinced are generally good– (mostly anyway– I realize “some people just want to watch the world burn”–

— can be so hardcore conservative.

[Disclaimer:  I wouldn’t have argued with this guy, or anyone really, about the whole Israeli/Palestinian “thing”. I don’t have enough information, frankly, and that’s just one topic I consider taboo. It’s too complicated, too emotional, and there’s too much history. I just don’t go there with people. But I’m sure he was conservative in lots of other ways. Just a hunch, anyway:P)

I hate to admit this, but sometimes I want to just hate conservatives.  I can’t help it! I disagree with them on just about everything, and so I could just write them all of as jerks and move on.  But yeah- aside from the fact that that would be stupid and childish, I couldn’t do that anyway, because I genuinely like a lot of people who are conservative.

Really. Even the super conservative, ultra-religious “southern folks” who we Northeasterners joke about and occasionally even brand as “rednecks.” The truth is, they tend to be genuinely nice, kind, good-hearted people who would give you the shirt off their back if you asked for it. They’ll pour you some sweet tea and get you a seat in the shade and send their regards to your family…

…but then every November they’ll go to the polls and vote for people like George W. Bush and Jesse Helms.

What’s up with that?

My wheels have been churning this one for years, and today’s little story brings it back to the top of my mind. I don’t understand.

P.S. Comments– but not hate mail or voicemail– are entirely welcome.

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