Close encounters of the absurd kind

A phone call that started off badly spun into a day full of curious conversations.

"Hello. Who is this?" There was a second's worth of silence on the other end of the phone. "Who the heck is this?" was the response that shocked me more then surprised me. The conversation went back and forth for the next few seconds until I finally realized whom I was talking to. It was my niece Kelly's husband.

At first I couldn't understand his response. But then he reminded me that I had called him and that it is logical to assume that if one calls someone, the caller should know whom he or she is trying to call. It was as if a bell went off in my head. I told him that he was right and that my question as to who this was had been more of a reflex response than a real inquiry.

We laughed, so much that I forgot why I was calling. A similar situation happened a few days ago. The phone rang during dinner and the person on the other end asked who I was. I reminded her that she had called me, but then she asked why I had called her. Called her? She explained that someone had called her and hung up and that she used a technology called *69 to see who it was. I told her that no one had been near the phone over the past couple of hours. She responded by hanging up on me.

Both instances brought up the question of how many times I used the phone and asked who it was that I had called and how many times I received a phone call only to be asked who I was. After awhile my head started to hurt. So I shook the thought off and went on with my day.

One of my tasks was to help my wife with the grocery shopping. At the meat counter, where I was in my usual confused state, I heard someone asking me from afar, "Is that you?" I was about to turn around and simply say yes when all of a sudden my mind wandered back to the conversation I had had with my niece's husband. I turned around and asked the person, who turned out to be an old neighbor, who I was supposed to be. He stopped in his tracks, gave me a confused stare, and then finally asked when I had become so unfriendly and abusive. I quickly apologized and explained why I had said what I said. He laughed and admitted that to ask someone whom you obviously know who he is was a bit foolish. After a few more minutes my old friend went his own way with an odd expression on his face. As I continued to be confused by the meat section I remember hoping that no one he knew would ask him a similar question.

I left the meat counter, as I usually leave meat counters, with nothing in my hand and decided to cash out with what my wife had decided we needed. Wouldn't you know it? As I was in line I felt a hand on my shoulder and heard a question from an old colleague. "Where the heck have you been?" Because my mind and mouth were not fully connected that day I turned and stated that I hadn't been anywhere. That I'd lived here for the past 25 years and I'd been shopping here for most of that time. I continued by asking him where the heck he had been and why I should care. This time I not only shocked an old friend, I terrified everyone in Aisles 1 through 6. I swear to this day that Aisles 4 and 5 instantaneously put on their closed lights at the same time.

To my surprise, my friend started to laugh and quickly admitted that asking where I had been was a foolish question, yet he also admitted it felt very natural. He then went on to state that he could have asked what had happened to me. We talked for a while and then my wife and I finally left for home. I didn't dare go anywhere else because I didn't want to be confronted by another question.

At home I helped my wife put the groceries away and sat in my favorite chair to enjoy my daily excursion through CNN newscasts. Wouldn't you know it, the phone rang. The first thing I was asked by the caller was "Who is this?" Desperately not wanting to begin another confrontation and thus chance losing another friend, I simply stated that I didn't know.

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