The phone rang at work. I picked it up. A man with an extremely sad, pitiful tone said, “I don’t know if I have the right number, I have a personal problem and need to talk to someone, is this the number to call?” I told him that it wasn’t. “What is this number?” he asked. A theatre, I said. “Oh. Well, could you talk for a little while?” I told him that I was busy, that I was really very sorry, but that he could call information and they could help him find the right number to call, I know there are numbers to call for that, they should be easy enough to find. “Oh, ok, thank you.” I wished him luck.
It was quite disturbing. He sounded so upset. Right after the call I thought, I should have talked to him. A news broadcast ran through my mind: “After calling various random numbers and finding no sympathetic ear, a man committed suicide this afternoon…” I felt so guilty.
But what could I have done? Just listened, I suppose. But while on the phone, as I tried to figure out what to do, I was just plain creeped out. It sounded so serious, it just felt wrong. At the time I thought that staying on the line was a bad idea. I felt that I could make it no better, only worse, and that I would have gotten too personally affected, that I would have taken his despondency as my own. It wasn’t until some time after I hung up and that feeling passed that I began to feel any differently about it.
Besides, I was at work, I was busy, prone to constant interruption, distraction. Once again, the trials and tribulations of day-to-day work-life interfered with me reaching out and possibly making a real human connection. For better or for worse.