While lunching with Burt, our family’s financial adviser, I was clued in on Burt’s counseling my daughter Anna concerning refinancing the mortgage on her house.
Burt told me he had recently left Anna a message, but she had not called him back. I found that unusual. Anna does not habitually ignore phone calls. Concerned that Burt may have inadvertently called the wrong number, I offered to repeat Anna’s phone number to him. It seemed the least I could do. Burt was paying for our lunch.
Burt assured me he would call Anna again. By which he meant he would try calling Anna again, as he had not actually called Anna the first time. (Which I readily assumed because Anna does not habitually ignore phone calls.) Technically speaking, Burt was then not officially “calling Anna again.” With this subsequent effort, he was calling her correctly just once.
Not being a stickler. That’s true.
The following morning, I get a call from Burt, informing me that he had called the number I had given him at lunch and had received a “Wrong number” result.
Let us be clear here at the outset. (Risking sounding like a stickler again.)
There is a difference between calling a mistaken phone number and calling the right phone number mistakenly. In the first case, someone could have provided an incorrect phone number, and you called it. In the second case, “Ask not where the responsibility lies. It lies with thee.”
(Note: Underlying this narrative is the concern that my trusted financial adviser has “Numerical Dyslexia.” Which opens a disturbing kettle of worms. Or is it “a disturbing can of fish”? You know what I mean. “Number Guys” should be reliable at numbers.)
Once again, I gave Burt Anna’s correct phone number.
And wouldn’t you know it?
Burt had, in fact, written it down wrong during our lunch.
More specifically, he had jotted one digit in Anna’s correct phone number down incorrectly.
What troubled me is not that Burt had mis-written a phone number. Everybody does that. What troubled me was the way he reported the “mis-write.”
Burt confessed getting one digit in Anna’s correct phone number wrong with the airy confidence of a man who had gotten nine digits in Anna’s correct phone number right.
Burt made it sound like that was actually commendable. When, in reality,
What gave me pause was Burt’s displayed arrogance at being “that close” with the phone number. “Hitting the rim,” as it were. When he had actually thrown up an “Air ball.”
Let me be fair here to Burt.
When adjudging his performance, there are arguably two standards to consider. (There aren’t. But let’s pretend.)
Standard Number One: “How close did you get to the actual number?”
Standard Number Two: “Did you reach the person you intended to call?”
By “Standard Number One”, Burt was virtually “Letter Perfect” in his performance.
Unfortunately, in the context of phone calls, “Standard Number Two” is the only standard that counts.
Pursuant to “Standard Number Two”, when dialing a phone number, whether you dial one number wrong or, including the Area Code, you dial all ten numbers wrong – which, by the way, who does that? – in both examples, you will have failed to reach the person you intended to call.
I know. In school, a score of “Nine out of ten” is an “A.”
But in the world of “Phone Dialing” –
That is simply the way it is.
You miss one digit in Anna’s phone number and you do not get Anna. You get a stranger you did not deliberately mean to call.
And they are inevitably not happy about it.
Burt had ten numbers to record. And he could not pull it off.
This is the man who is handling my money.
Not wanting to embarrass him, I changed his name for this commentary.
I changed it by one letter.
I thought that was fitting.
That’s interesting, isn’t it? One altered letter in a name – you protect an identity.
One altered digit in a phone number –
You get somebody else.
Burt now has Anna’s correct phone number.
The rest is entirely up to him.