My patience with self-absorbed parents has been wearing thin lately. One Sunday night around 9 P.M., for instance, the phone began ringing every 20 minutes or so for about two-and-a-half hours. There were no voice-mail messages, except for a couple that recorded only an electronic sounding beep. A wrong number? A misdialed fax? Finally at 10:30 P.M., awakened, I hit *69, hoping that if it was a wrong number I could ask whoever it was to please stop bothering me.
But it turned out the caller was a fellow journalist whose son goes to my daughter's school. I could hear electronic beeps in the background, apparently from her home office equipment, so obviously it had been her calling repeatedly all night -- the way people do when they're trying to flush you out rather than simply leave a message that might be ignored. She knew I'd recently had to start some nasty new fatigue-causing medication, so rightly suspected I was home.
"Well, because I was trying to get hold of you!" she exclaimed when I asked why she'd kept calling and calling without leaving a message. "You see, we've got an urgent problem..." Her ninth-grade son needed info for a team homework project due the next day from a classmate, whose phone number he'd neglected to get, and they didn't have a student directory. "I was hoping you might!" she explained brightly.
"I don't know if I have a student directory," I said shortly, "but I do know that I'm not getting out of bed at 10:30 P.M. on Sunday night to look for it." Nor did I have any intention of waking my daughter, who's the one around here keeping track of most school-related info anyway.
The woman sent an apologetic e-mail the next day, although actually it was rather short on the apology and long on the "urgent" explanation, which she apparently felt confident was a completely understandable excuse, if only I could be made to realize her terribly important situation. You see, the classmate was supposed to provide the homework info, but he hadn't, and, well... Etc.