One of the nicest adjectives applied to me is “avuncular,” the kindly, wise uncle-type.
Being courteous — as well as avuncular — I always shut off my phone while at the movies. Upon exiting, its screen exhibits “You have five voice mail messages.” My cell number is closely held, so that many messages unto itself is odd; even worse, they’re also all from the same young man from down south who regularly seeks my guidance. Seeing so many messages from him in a two-hour time span, I fear the worst and quickly tap the link for message one.
“Hey, it’s me, can you call me back when you get a chance? Later. Bye.”
His words say “casual” but he’s attempting to cover the dusting of nervousness sprinkling his tone.
Message two arrived 15 minutes later.
“Me again, just wondering if you got my last message. I know you’re busy, but when you have a minute, I need some advice and knew you could help… Okay, thanks.”
Anxiety is increasing but is still reigned in.
Twenty minutes later,
“I guess your cell is turned off. But, as soon as you turn it on, I really need you to call. It’s important. Please. I need your help.”
He’s pleading, abandoning the illusion of being off-the-cuff.
I would have phoned right then, but two messages remained, with what could be additional essential information. I listen to the next dispatch, which arrived 30 minutes ago. His frantic voice explodes from the speaker:
“I’m freaking out! Please, please, please call me back!! It’s urgent!”
My inner parent is red-lining. I really want to call, but feel it’s important to get the last piece of data — which turns out to be 180 degrees different in attitude; tranquil, peaceful, and calm like a placid lake:
“Never mind the previous calls. Sorry to bother you.”
Relieved, but confused, I dial his number.
“Hey, what’s up?” He asks like we’re talking about what’s for dinner.
“What do you mean, ‘What’s up?’ You left four frantic messages and then tell me ‘never mind.’”
“Oh, yeah, that… It’s kind of embarrassing.” He stumbles for words, “Anyways, you always taught me to be careful when I get my first credit card, right?”
“Um, I don’t think I learned too well. I got in over my head.”
“You need money?”
“No. I destroyed the card and I’m paying it down every month.”
“Good for you,” ever the supportive older adviser am I. “So, what’s the problem?”
“I came home from work and my roommate told me that the sheriff’s department called for me. He told them I’d be home later and they said they’d call back.”
“Well, I thought they were calling to arrest me for missing my payment last month. I was freaking out because I knew they were going to call back and I didn’t know what to do.”
“You know, they don’t arrest people for missed payments. There aren’t any debtors prisons anymore.”
Self-conscious… “Um, yeah, I learned that. They just called a few minutes ago, raising money for charity. I panicked for nothing.”
“Everything is fine now?”
“Uh-huh. Sorry to bother you.”
“Out of curiosity, what did you tell them?”
“The truth, I don’t have a credit card. Kind of ironic that what I freaked about saved me some money, huh?”
I chucked, “Yes, I guess it is.”
“Sometimes, I guess things just work out. No need to get all bent out of shape at everything, huh?”
“Yes, you’re right. Great lesson.”