At work, we love it when crazy people call us. We'll save the messages for those who don't have access to an office phone, such as our maintenance crew, then play back the message for them on their breaks. We also forward these phone calls to others at City Hall, so they can enjoy them too. We can enjoy the crazy phone calls for weeks. Boss has a phone call on his voicemail message system that's eight weeks old, and like children asking for a bedtime story, we'll ask Boss to play the message back for us. Unfortunately, most of my calls aren't forwarded to voicemail, so I talk to the crazy people directly.
"City Public Works-- this is T-Bone. May I help you?"
Woman with German accent: "I vent to pick up my son at school today, and there was rain flooding the gutter next to de curb, and ven he got in my car, he lost his shoe!" She was very agitated.
"Gosh, I'm sorry he lost his shoe-- how can I help you?"
"Vell, de shoe washed down de street and into de drain. I vant you to stop water from flowing tru de system and get the shoe."
I envisioned our rain-swollen creek and my boss running alongside with a butterfly net, trying to rescue this kid's stupid shoe.
"Ma'am, I'm afraid we can't help you with that," I said apologetically.
"Vell, dey are his favorite shoes! I can't keep buying him a new pair of shoes every time he loses one in de drain! I just bought him dis pair-- he lost another one in de drain before! Dey cost $17.00 a PAIR!"
Maybe she should just buy a new kid-- one who's a little less klutzy getting in the car.
"Well," I explained, "The shoe is gone from our water system. Why don't you call Next Door's Water Department? They might be able to help you find your son's shoe." When in doubt, dump the pissed off German ladies with Next Door. They can deal with her.
Recently, we received a letter from a citizen saying that her tires had been damaged by a pothole at the intersection of Y and Z. She wanted reimbursement for these tires, due to The Hamlet's "refusal" to fill this pothole. Boss informed me that this particular intersection is Next Door's responsibility, as it is just outside our city limits, which is why we didn't fix the pothole. I wrote the citizen a letter advising her of such. Two weeks later, she* called.
"This is Betty. I'm calling to report a pothole."
"Okay," I answered. "Can you tell me where it is?"
"It's at the intersection of A and B in The Hamlet. I blew out two new tires on this pothole and," her voice winding up, up, up, like a generator, "I want to be reimbursed for them! They cost me $100.00! I'm on disability and I don't have the money for this! I want money for my tires today!"
"Ma'am, I'm sorry-- can I put you on hold for just a moment?"
"I guess," she said, exasperated.
I pulled her letter out of my file cabinet. In the letter, she specifically stated that the potholes that ruined her tires were at the intersection of Y and Z, located in Next Door's city limits. I got back on the phone with her.
"Ma'am, thanks for holding. You sent us a letter about this about two weeks ago, didn't you?"
"Yes. I. Did. I never got any kind of response from you people about it! You just don't want to take responsibility for blowing out my tires! I want my $100.00 for those tires right now!"
"Ma'am, according to your letter, it says that the potholes were at Y and Z, which is Next Door. We don't fix potholes for Next Door."
"Well, I'm telling you right now, the pothole is at A and B! I want my money," she concluded stubbornly.
"Ma'am, I'm very sorry-- but we sent you a letter the day after we received yours in the mail. Did you not receive that letter?"
Betty, overwrought and apparently really confused, starting crying. She said, "Well, I just don't know where my tires were blown out. I just moved here from another part of the city, and I'm all confused and turned around. I know those potholes were outside my house."
"Ma'am, did you receive our letter?"
"Well. I suppose I did. But later I thought about it and realized that the potholes that caused my tires to go flat were the ones outside my house, not those other ones."
"Ma'am, I need to ask you this and I'm sorry if my question upsets you-- but how do you know that for sure?"
"I DON'T KNOW THAT!" she screamed, "I don't know! I just know that my tires had to be replaced and I can't afford it!"
God, she is losing it, poor thing, I thought. But I also wasn't going to let her try to pilfer us out of $100.00 because she wasn't sure which potholes caused this. I tried one last question, hoping she'd give me the answer I needed to help her.
"Ma'am, did you file a police report or an insurance claim or anything that'll tell us exactly where your tires blew out?"
"Nooooo! I didn't!" she yelled.
Oh well. I tried.
Following is the eight week-old message on Boss's voicemail. What started off as a credible, run-of-the-mill call quickly turned into something... not so credible and yes, a little creepy.
"This is Sue. With all the rain we've been having lately, I'm really concerned about all the erosion. I live near the mountain and lots of it is washing down the street-- lots of dirt and mud and lots of other stuff too. One thing I'm really worried about are the bodies buried up on the mountain. You know, I've heard all those stories about people being buried up there, and then washing down the mountain when the rains get really bad. I just want you to know that I'm keeping an eye out for those bodies, you know. There's lots of stories around town and lots of people who bury people up on that mountain, and I want you to know that I'm watching for them-- the bodies-- because did you know that there is no statute of limitations on murder? All the people in The Hamlet know about those bodies. So I want you to know that I know all about it and I'm watching for them. Because there's no statute of limitations on murder, you know. Have a good day!"
* Why are the barking mad callers always female? It's perplexing.