I tell the elderly voice at the other end, "There is nobody called Ruby here."
"Oh, sorry dear."
The 'phone goes down. A moment later it rings again. The same caller looking for Ruby. I ask what number she dialled. It is ours. It is the number she has been given. I suggest a look in the telephone directory. "I can't see that dear." "Would you like me to look? I'll find it if I can and read the number to you." "Oh, would you? That's very kind of you. You must think I am very silly." "Not at all."
And I do not think she is silly. It is easy to reverse numbers, mishear, be given the wrong number and not be able to read the telephone directory because you are old and the print is too small. I give her the right number - two numbers were reversed - and put the phone down again. Misdialling numbers must occur quite frequently, certainly we get a number of wrong numbers. I suspect, from the sound of them, that most are genuine. We do not own artworks of great value or keep a stash of bullion in the filing cabinet. If the caller is elderly or distressed I will try to help with the right number.
Sometimes however it is not possible to do much about a misdialled call. Someone I know had a message left on her answering machine in England. It was from Eric Sykes telling Vera Lynne that her appearance on television was magnificent. All my friend can assume is that Mr Sykes reversed some numbers but she said "his voice is unmistakeable".
It reminded me of something I had almost forgotten. One weekend I answered the 'phone and the equally unmistakeable voice of one of our former Prime Ministers said, " Could you save me a Y paper please." In response I said, "I am sorry Mr X but this is not the newsagent."
There was a momentary silence at the other end and then a chuckle before, "Good grief am I still that recognisable?" and a very polite apology.
Thankfully I am not (in)famous but I am still going to make an added effort to dial carefully.