Thursday, February 9, 2012

In which I give my number to a man whom I don't want to call me

The only good thing about being laid off - other than getting a bunch of money and time at once, which is nice but not such a good strategy for long-term survival, is that you can put off dealing with unpleasant things like phone calls from people who never should have had your number in the first place.

By "people," I mean men who asked for the number and I didn't have the guts to say no to, although I suppose it was also a relief not to get any more phone calls asking to speak to the person in charge of making the waste disposal services purchasing decisions, as was wont to happen because Dun & Bradstreet had mistakenly printed my phone number as the main contact number for Acme, which, at the time, had over 100,000 employees. I knew the D&B rep and insisted that he owed me a box of really nice chocolates for all the phone calls I had gotten because of their mistake.

In August, before I got the news that my job was disappearing and I was supposed to disappear along with it, I was at Dinstuhl's, the fancy chocolate store in Memphis, buying chocolate for the customer service reps at the factories. I had no authority over these people, no way to make them do what I needed them to do, which was a lot of pain in the neck work with the customer and product data, so I used chocolate as a bribe.

Is that wrong?

I don't think so. I think "Whatever it takes" is a perfectly good motto when it comes to work and chocolate. As long as I had that corporate American Express and as long as my boss was signing off on my expense reports, which he always did because he never bothered to read anything I sent to him - he complained that I used "big words" that "made people feel stupid," although he could never give me an example of 1. a big word or 2. a person who felt stupid, then I was going to buy Good Chocolate.

While I was waiting for the clerk to wrap my 15 boxes of assorted truffles - as soon as her back was turned, I snatched another sample of the cashew brittle that was on top of the counter, I fell into conversation with a middle-aged man - more middle aged than I was at the time - who was also waiting for chocolate.

I’ll talk to anyone if I’m bored. He was nice enough. Dressed in a suit, which is something I always like to see, as I hate business casual.

We talked about our mutual love of chocolate, comparing brands and types of chocolate, and agreeing that Dinstuhl's had better chocolate than Godiva. He told me about how he had bicycled across Europe when he was in his 20s, sampling chocolate along the way. It was a nice conversation. I was not flirting. 1. I don't flirt because I am really, really bad at it. 2. I had no interest in this guy in that way. 3. I had just met Gomez the Moroccan Millionaire so my mind was elsewhere.

He asked where I worked. I told him. He told me he was a lawyer, handed me his card. I made some joke about keeping it in case I needed my one phone call in the middle of the night.

When I saw his name, I almost asked if he was my friend Nancy Jones’ dad. He looked old enough to be someone's dad. Memphis is a small place. Everyone is related to everyone else or at least they all know each other. He very well could have been Nancy's dad.

Instead, I asked if he was related to her. I didn’t want to insult him by implying he was dad age, which in retrospect is silly because there is nothing wrong with being dad age. Now I wish I had.

Then he asked for my card.

I hesitated.

Was he asking for my phone number? What should I do? I was not accustomed to men asking for my phone number. In fact, I think it’s happened maybe two or three times my entire life. What are you supposed to do if the man asking for your number is not a man in whom you are interested?

My sister, the man magnet, is a pro at this. She would have known exactly how to handle the situation. “Oh, I don’t have any,” she would have said breezily.

Somehow, I think this guy would have had a comeback. “Let me write your number on one of my cards,” he would have replied.

But Jenny’s trick to that is to transpose a few digits. “That way, they think they just wrote the number down wrong and their feelings don’t get hurt,” she explains.

But with a sinking feeling, I gave him my card. I didn’t want to go out with this guy but I didn't have the guts not to give him my card.

He didn't call.

And he didn't call.

And he didn't call.

I stopped worrying about it.

As days passed and the risk grew less, my relief grew. Whew! Off the hook!

Imagine pages flying off a calendar. Time passes. Time passes.

Now it was December. I had been laid off. I had met Primo and ditched Gomez the Moroccan Millionaire. My last day of work was going to be December 30.

On December 12, he called. I heard the voicemail: “Golddigger, this is Steve Jones. We met several months ago at Dinstuhl's. I never called because I lost your card but I just found it. I’ll call you next week. Maybe we can have a drink together.”

That call sent chills of fear down my spine.

Even if I hadn't met Primo and even if I hadn't ditched Gomez, even if I were all alone, I wouldn't be interested in dating someone who I thought was a friend's dad.

So I did what any rational person would do. I didn't answer any local outside phone calls. I let them all go to voicemail and then I screened them.

I did that for three weeks.

And he never called back.