Meeting the poor family who has our old number

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The Applesteins called last night to remind us of our son Daniel's dental appointment on Monday. The Applesteins, total strangers, probably know more about our lives than most of our friends and family. They know our dentists and doctors, our kids' schools, our friends. I'm sure they also know where we worship, what charities we favor, what theater subscriptions we've had in the past, and where we work.

The Applesteins (not their real name) have our old phone number, the one we used for 15 years before we moved to Brussels for a year. Not only were they unfortunate enough to get our memorable number, a James Bondish 0707, but they also inherited our set of friends and acquaintances who seemed to think that the phone company would temporarily retire that number until we were ready to retrieve it again.

The poor Applesteins have fielded graduation notices from the kids' schools, questions about the book club from my friends, and who knows how many embarrassed hangups when people wanted to call us and realized they'd gone for the old number.

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Joan Applestein was on the line. I almost felt she was an old friend. "We should invite you over," I said. "You've been so kind, and I'm sorry to cause you all this trouble."

"It's no trouble," said Joan. It turned out that her children go to the same dentist. So when she heard the message, she tried to remember if she had made an appointment for Monday. "That's when I realized I don't have a Daniel," she said. "But please tell the dentist the new number."

"Yes, I will," I said. "I just needed to have my son's teeth cleaned before he goes off to college."

"You really don't need to tell me that," she responded. I paused. I realized I wasn't sure if she was trying to tell me not to bother her with so much personal information - or whether she already knew all about it.

"Tell Daniel good luck in college," she added. I wonder if she'd like his dorm address so she can send him a care package.

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