Sometime in the autumn of 2002, I had a week of phone calls.
My mother was ill in hospital and someone kept ringing, every day, at ten o’clock, for a week. Every day, he asked for Mrs. Binney, and every day I told him she was not available. I offered to take messages but indeed, every day he said he would call back some other time.
By the end of the week, I’d had enough.
“Look,” I said, “I’m Mrs. Binney’s daughter. Can I help?”
“Well,” he began, defeated after his week going toe to toe with me not wanting to talk, “Mrs. Binney filled in a form and she’s won a free demonstration of a Some-Brand-Or-Other Vacuum Cleaner.”
I was sceptical. “When did she fill in this form?”
“Umm..” he squirmed. “I don’t know, she’s on my computer screen. Couple of weeks ago, maybe?”
“Mrs. Binney has been in hospital for three months,” I stated.
“It might have been more than a couple of weeks,” he offered, limply. “Anyway, with the Some-Brand-Or-Other Vac..”
“Also,” I’m not one to thrust myself into the middle of sentence, but needs must. “Mrs. Binney filled in a form, you say.”
“Mrs. Binney is a quadriplegic.”
<Total unremitting silence>
I clarified, “That means she can’t move any of her limbs. Even if she wasn’t in hospital, how exactly could she fill in a form?”
The man hesitated. “Ohh, umm, well.. Maybe it was Mr. Binney.”
“Really? Okay, then. Where exactly did you send this form?”
“What?” he prickled.
“Because I don’t suppose he’s filled in a form in the last five years.”
“Oh?” said the idiot, “and why is that? Is he a quadriplegic too?”
“No,” I answered. “Mr. Binney died in 1997.”
There came a very long pause, accompanied by some audible shuffling.
“I think I’ve got the wrong Binney,” he said.
“I think you have,” I agreed and hung up.