"This is Mike with Bright Smiles! I'm calling to confirm your appointment tomorrow at two o'clock."
The voice was firm, a no-nonsense voice, the voice of someone whose mind was already on the next phone number in his list. And it was a voice I didn't recognize at all. Ditto the dental office it referenced. I see Dr. Charles Rental, of Rental Family Dentistry. Call me old fashioned, but I appreciate a dentist's actual name on the shingle. Those cutesy DBAs some offices use sound like they'd rot your teeth.
"Funny thing," I said, "I do have an appointment at two tomorrow. Only it's not with Bright Smiles. I think you have the wrong number."
Mike's voice went from no-nonsense to sharply sardonic. "No, little miss, I think you have the wrong office." This was the voice of someone who didn't like being contradicted. Not by a mere customer, anyway.
And the sad thing was, it almost worked. He sounded so sure, and the coincidence was too weird. You know how sometimes you're inexplicably uncertain that the word you're reaching for is actually a word? It just sounds wrong, for no reason at all? It was like that. What were the chances...? But in a moment I got a grip on myself and went on the offensive. "You're going to get yourself fired if you keep talking to the patients like that, Mike."
"You just said you're not one of our patients," Mike shot back, "so who cares how I talk to you?"
Wow. What a grade-A asshole. I hung up on him. What else do you do?
It wasn't nearly as easy to hang up on my doubts. They plagued me all morning. What were the chances that some other dental office would call my wrong number to confirm the precise date and time of my appointment elsewhere? I stewed on that until I was sick of stew. But the smell of the stew, you might say, hung around. What were the chances...
Enough already. I pulled my appointment card out of my nightstand drawer and dialed the number that was printed directly beneath the familiar name of my dentist. Carlie would answer the phone, everything would be settled, and I'd get on with my life.
"Bright Smiles! Mike speaking. How I can help you?"
I hung up on the double.
OK. Think. Possible explanations? Well... I could be delusional. Ten years of visits to Dr. Rental's office might be nothing but a memory invented by a malfunctioning brain. The appointment card was a hallucination and I couldn't be trusted to read the English language... No, my teeth might need a check up, but my mind was sound as ever.
The only other explanation I could come up was that a competitor had hacked Dr. Rental's phone number and stolen his appointment database.
I got to thinking about Carlie, the scheduler at Rental Family Dentistry. It occurred to me that anyone who wanted to steal Dr. Rental's appointment book probably had to go through Carlie to get it.
I think that's why I finally got in my car and drove the five miles to Rental Family Dentistry on the day before I was scheduled to go in anyway. I needed to talk to Carlie and make sure she was OK....
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