These days we're all so busy, busy, busy that even close friends or family can take weeks to schedule a time when all parties are able to see each other. In amongst all that rushing around to meet appointments, targets, deadlines it's all too easy to focus so closely on our own lives that we forget to see anyone else's.
Since I was allocated my landline phone number I've been receiving lots of wrong numbers. I was distinctly unimpressed to be woken up early on Saturday morning by the phone, I couldn't get to it in time, didn't recognise the number but it still did a good job of preventing me going back to sleep. So, at first when I heard the quavering voice on the end of the phone my heart sank. I'd only been home about 10 minutes, I was tired, hungry and in fact so engrossed in something that I missed the first call she made.
The second time I got to the phone in time. She was already a bit confused was Auntie Betsy, she wanted to speak to her nephew Dave, was quite sure she'd phoned his number. This number. My number. With one eye on the clock I assured her this wasn't Dave's phone number, said goodbye and thought no more of it. Until she rang again just a moment later. More confused, and I could hear both the distress and shame in her voice as she told me she was in her 80's. That she'd once had a very responsible job you know...she just didn't know how she could manage to muddle up a few numbers so easily.
Once again I explained she had the wrong number, but this time tried to find out who she was looking for. She was calling from all the way across the country she said, would I know her? I explained that was unlikely, but that we'd get this sorted and I'd try the phone book to find her nephew.
Of course they were ex directory.
I live in a small area though and in some small ways community spirit is alive and well. So, it turned out I knew her nephew. Not well, he's a friend of a friend of a friend. But I knew enough to recognise who Aunty Betsy was looking for, and figured if I couldn't spare a few moments to help a confused old lady then what did that say about me as a human being.
Fortunately Aunty Betsy had the number for her nephew's mother, or so she said. I wasn't quite sure because that would've meant it was either her sister or sister-in-law (I think!) but still, I figured it was worth giving it a go. Otherwise I knew it would be possible to track down her nephew but it would mean multiple phone calls to different people to try and track down a number for the friend, to get the number of the friend of the friend.
The number was correct, and turned out to be for nephew Dave, with no mention of his mother. We said our hello's and I explained about Aunty Betsy being a bit puddled. Dave said he'd give her a call and apologised repeatedly. My phone number was previously Dave's phone number and Aunty Betsy must've just got them mixed up.
I called Aunty Betsy after I'd spoken to Dave to let her know that was the right phone number and to reassure her.
Later, alone in bed the thought of a confused old lady phoning and phoning a number she wasn't too sure about to try and speak to her nephew and wondering why he didn't answer her brought me to tears. What possible use are all our shiny gadgets and adrenaline packed lives if we can't find just a few moments in our days for everyone's Aunty Betsy?