Directory Assistance

Directory Assistance

From A 4th Course of Chicken Soup for the Soul

Directory Assistance

You have not lived a perfect day, even though you have earned your money, unless you have done something for someone who will never be able to repay you.

Ruth Smeltzer

Although my sister was sure Daddy would be okay, I worried as I called the hospital. My husband at the time was out of town at a radio advertising convention. “If you need me, call the radio station. The secretary has the name of the hotel and the number,” he said before he left.

I waited until mid-morning to call Memorial Hospital in northern Indiana. The moment I heard Jane’s voice, I knew Daddy was in trouble. “He’s filling up with fluid. The doctor here can’t do any more for him. An ambulance has been ordered, and then he’ll be transported to St. John’s. They have more cardio equipment there.” Jane continued, “Mom and I are going to grab lunch and then drive from Memorial to St. John’s. There’s nothing more we can do here.”

“Should I come?”

“Not yet. He’s stable. Why don’t you wait.”

The rest of the morning inched by. I tried to work. I collected ads, wrote them up and turned them in. Close to noon, I called St. John’s. The nurse in cardio checked her records. The transport had left but returned to Memorial and never reached St. John’s. That was all she could tell me.

There was only one reason the transport would have turned back. Daddy must have died en route. I dialed Memorial, my mind racing. Should I drive immediately to Indiana? My family was five hours away. Should I call for my husband and wait for him? If Daddy was dead, did it matter?

The nurse who answered was a friend of my sister. Because Jane worked at Memorial as a respiratory therapist, many of the nursing staff knew her and, therefore, knew about Daddy.

“What happened?” I asked.

She stuttered around. Hospital regulations forbid her from saying, but she recommended I get in touch with my sister as soon as possible.

“I can’t!” I wailed. “I’m in Illinois. You have to tell me. It’s cruel not to be honest. All I’m asking is. .. is. .. is he dead?”

Yes, of course, he was. He had died two blocks from Memorial en route to St. John’s Hospital. Now, in my grief, I had to decide what to do about traveling.

I called the radio station. “Do you have the number of Jim’s hotel?” They put me on hold. They couldn’t find it. They were sorry.

With shaking hands, I opened the phone book. The area code for Kansas City was 913. I dialed information. Bell Telephone policy allowed operators to give out three phone numbers for each directory assistance inquiry. I jotted down the three numbers of the first hotel chains I could think of.

I called one. Neither the radio convention nor my husband was there. I called the second—same situation. I called the third. Again, I struck out. I redialed directory assistance. This time I could only think of the name of one more hotel chain, the Hyatt. I wrote down the number, and then I dialed. The numbness had started wearing off, and I sniffled a little into the receiver.

“No, we don’t have a convention for radio ad managers here, and your husband’s name doesn’t show on our list of registered guests,” said the switchboard operator. “Sorry, I’m just the operator.. .”

But before she could hang up, a sob escaped my lips. After a long silence, I clutched the receiver in my hand and wiped my nose on the back of my sleeve.

“What’s wrong?” she asked quietly.

“My dad died a few minutes ago. He—his body—is in Indiana. It’s a five-hour trip, and I can’t find my husband. I don’t know whether to jump in the car and go or to wait,” I blurted. “I want to be with my sisters and my mom, but I don’t know what to do!”

Another long silence. Then she spoke slowly and quietly, “Give me your name and your number and sit tight until I call back.” Gratefully, I did. She called me back in less than five minutes.

“Joanna, I found him. He’s at the Adam’s Mark Hotel. I’ve notified the manager, and they have people posted to grab him as soon as the general session breaks. That should be within 20 minutes. It’s impossible for him to get past them.”

I sobbed into the phone. “Thank you, thank you so much.”

“One more thing,” she continued, “if you do decide to drive, please take a friend. Be careful. You’ve had a dreadful shock and. .. and. .. be careful, okay? I’m sorry about your dad.”

From another state, the voice of a friend soothed me. Whoever this woman was, she was more than just a switchboard operator. She was a wonderful, kind person who was more than her job.

Joanna Slan

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners