I Never Meant to Be Funny – Case of Mistaken Identity

I once called my mother on a weeknight evening to say hello. When she answered the phone, I began with my usual, “Hi, Ma.  How ya’ doin’?”

To my astonishment, she responded, “I think you have the wrong number. What number are you trying to call?”

Thinking that she wanted to horse around a bit, I appeased her playful sense of humor by rattling off her phone number in a sing-song fashion.

She then said in a somewhat perplexed tone, “Well, I do believe you have the right number, but I don’t believe I’m your mother!”

In my mind, I still thought there was a slim chance that she was pulling my leg. So, I asked, “Is this Micki?”

She answered, “Why yes, it is.”

I then inquired, “And, do you have a daughter named Karen Shulman?”

She responded, “Why yes, I do.”

At this point, I figured the joke was on her, not me. She wasn’t pulling my leg; she was clueless as to who I was. Despite the fact that I have a very distinct voice, and even people who have only spoken to me once on the phone can readily identify me the second time they hear my voice, my own mother did not recognize me on the phone this particular night. So, I went in for the finish. I exclaimed, “Ma, this would be me…your daughter… Karen Shulman. It’s me, Ma.”

As she laughed and screamed at her blunder, she tried to do some explaining. She offered, “Oh, it didn’t sound like you. We have company over for dinner, and it’s very loud in here. I wasn’t expecting a call from you tonight. I was going to call you later.” Then, in the midst of the laughter from my stepfather, Sam, and their company (who were able to decipher at their end what happened during the conversation), I heard my stepfather yelling, “You think that’s bad. Try waking up with her in the morning. She turns over, looks at me and says ‘who the hell are you?’”

The story doesn’t end there. A few weeks later I flew to Florida to visit my folks. With me I took a sign that said, “I’m looking for Micki. I am your daughter.” I carried it with me into the baggage claim area, our pre-arranged meeting location. I believe my mother recognized me when she saw me, but she scrunched up her face and strained her eyes to read my sign. As she approached, I could see her reading and mouthing the words of the sign. She then smacked me in the arm and told me, “You think you’re funny, don’t you?”

I said that indeed I did. The sign was my only way of insuring that she knew I was the person she was supposed to take home with her for a few days.

The story did end there, temporarily. Five years later, my mother called me to tell me about a sequel, of sorts:

            “Hi, Karen. How are you doing?” my mom asked me.

“Good, Ma. How about you?” I said in response.

“I’m good, too. I just tried to call you,” my mother stated.

The phone hadn’t rung at my house. How could she have just tried to call me? “Ma, the phone never rang here. What happened?” I asked.

“It appears I dialed a wrong number. You know I have a cell phone where I’ve programmed your number in the speed dial, right?” she explained.

I answered, “Right, Ma.”

“Well, for some reason I didn’t use the speed dial,” she said, and then she paused. “And, I have a cell phone that would allow me to say ‘call Karen’, but I didn’t use that, either. I just dialed. I don’t know why, but I just dialed your number.”

“So what happened?” I inquired.

“Well,” my mother continued, “a woman answered the phone, and she sounded a bit like you. I said, ‘Hi, Karen. How are you?’ The woman said, ‘Who are you trying to call?’ and I thought you were teasing me, you know, paying me back for when I didn’t know it was you on the phone.”

By this time, we were both giggling, because she and I both knew I wasn’t playing a joke on her. “Yeah? Keep going, Ma,” I urged.

“So, I kept playing along with the woman, thinking it was you. ‘I’m trying to call my daughter. Are you my daughter?’ That’s what I asked her,” continued my mother. “Then the woman says to me, ‘Not that I know of.’ Now, I still thought it was you, Karen, pulling one over on me. So, I said to her, ‘Are you writing a book about me?’

“And then what happened, Ma?” I asked, because I knew we had to be near the end of the latest ‘mother story’.

My mother exclaimed, “The woman hung up on me!”

We were both laughing so hard, we were crying.  “Ma,” I said. “I’m still putting the finishing touches on the book before I send it to the publisher. I’m glad I haven’t turned it in yet, because this needs to be added. Thanks for sharing!”

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