Wireless reception is poor in my house, and so I rarely even have the cell phone on, but I am just getting back from a business trip and the phone is clipped to my purse, bleep, bleep, bleep. I figure this must be a call related to the business of my trip, so I quickly pick it up.


"Oh, hi. This is Angela from AFF. Your husband said it was okay that I call you at this number?"

Um. Sure. But why would Alex give her this number? In my mind I am not even up to the part where I have no idea who Angela is and where, exactly, she's calling from. Sometimes it takes a few beats before you catch up. She explains that she spoke to my husband this morning and gave him the news that "everything is finally set up."

"Wonderful!" I say happily, because now I understand. Angela must be yet another one of those women calling from the speech therapy place. A few months ago, my daughter Sasha got referred to a new speech therapy program, and we've been going in circles ever since trying to get insurance approvals and appointments for testing, and then we were put on a waiting list. I have long since stopped trying to keep track of the names and affiliations of the nurses and insurance representatives and treatment coordinators who have been calling me with their acronyms since this process began. All of a sudden Sasha has an SLP from PSP and an SAC from CSH. About a week ago, I got so sick of tracking it all, so sick of nagging these people to get this therapy started, that I asked Alex to take over. It seems he got results!

"So we're ready to start?" I say to Angela.

"Does tomorrow work for you?" she says.

Well, wow. What kind of magic did Alex work on these people? Now I understand why he gave her my cell phone number -- so she could reach me while I was in transit to schedule tomorrow's appointment. This, anyway, is how my brain is adding everything up with little conscious effort.

"Okay, so what time?" I ask her.

"About 7:30?" she says.

Yeesh. I'm calculating how I'll get Sasha up and fed and out the door. "We're not really morning people," I say with an embarrassed snicker.

"Morning?" she says, and at this point she laughs. Really laughs. It seems like too much laughter.

"Oh, so you mean evening," I say. Heh-heh. Why am I feeling so very stupid? But, speech therapy at night? For a 3-year-old? Sasha goes to bed at 8. I mumble something about how other people must have much later bedtimes in their houses.

Now her laughter sounds downright naughty. What is so funny? This whole conversation is not quite adding up. When do you admit to another person that you are not sure what in the heck is going on? It's a process. When things don't add up, the natural human tendency is to blame the calculator in your brain, and not the things. You feel stupid. You don't want to be stupid. You try harder.

"Your husband said 7:30 would give him enough time to get home from work," she says.

"Wait, you want me to bring my husband?" I say. "Do we both have to be there?"

"That's totally up to you," she says. "But I thought -- "

"He said he wanted to go?" I ask.

"This morning he seemed pretty definite."

I ask her the address of where we're supposed to go.

"We'll just meet up at bike night," she says. "And take it from there."

"Bike night?" Bike night is notorious around these parts. It's when hundreds of people riding motorcycles come together for wings and beer at a local bar. It's not an event for children. Right? Speech therapy in a biker bar? This is not adding up. I am trying to not be a confused person. I am trying to avoid admitting to this woman that I am, in fact, a confused person. The normal human tendency is to work all sorts of mental gymnastics before going public with how stupid you are.

"Where did you say you're calling from?" I say to Angela. It feels like some supreme act of bravery, just asking her to please start over.


"Okay, what is AFF?"

"Adult Friend Finder?" she says sheepishly.

Oh, dear. Suddenly, things begin to really, really add up. I'm pretty sure she and her adult friends are getting together for more than, er, a game of bridge. "You're not a speech therapist . . . ," I say, my voice coming out like a little chirp.

"Your husband's name isn't Dave . . . ," she says.

We compare the number she thinks she dialed with the number she dialed. It is only one digit off, and yet so far off. "I am so sorry," she says. I tell her, no, I am. She says, no, she is. It goes on like this, two strangers tangled in apology.

"Okay, well, I have to go," she says.

"Yeah, 'bye."

And from now on, the husband answers all telephone calls.

Jeanne Marie Laskas's e-mail address is post@jmlaskas.com.