What does a pine cone have in common with a wrong number? I’m really into pine cones right now, and I’ll get to that, but my Australian Wrong Number makes a good story.
Picking up a wrong number in Mumbai can leave you feeling like the wrong end of a Monday. The caller never identifies himself. Instead the voice at the other end will screech “Kaun hai”. For my English-speaking readers, this translates literally as “Who’s that” but actually means “Who the heck are you, and what do you think you’re doing picking up this call?” The caller then proceeds to insist that a) they rang the right number and b) I should put the person they want on the phone.
My Australian Wrong Number, on the other hand, was from someone named Steve. It all began with a mysterious text message inviting me to play soccer. I deleted the message and forgot all about it, but it happened again, and again. Finally after receiving the news that practice had been cancelled, I did a bit of detective work and realized that my caller was from Sydney. I decided to do him a favour and let him know that I couldn’t turn up for the game seeing I was all the way over here in Perth.
A few weeks later, an unknown caller rang. Having missed the call, I decided to ring back.
“I’m the one that’s been sending you the soccer messages,” said a male voice.
“Ah yes, well, I don’t play soccer…sorry,” said I.
“Well, you couldn’t come over all the way from Perth in any case,” said Steve, before signing off with an apology.
How nice, I thought, feeling quite pleased with my Australian Wrong Number. The experience has left me feeling rather kindly disposed towards Australian men. They apologize to you. They hold doors open for you even if you’re a complete stranger. Most of all, they wish you even if they only know you by sight.
All of this makes me feel like all’s right with the world. Like pine cones. I’m looking for the perfect pine cone. I’ve collected four so far. Back home we have to pay good money for pine cones. Here, they lie freely on the roadside, food for Perth’s white cockatoos. I’m also thinking of adding dandelions to my list of Good Things About Australia. I mention this to my Aussie friend who gives me her “Crazy Indian” look. Still there’s nothing like the pointless pleasure to be had in finding the perfect pine cone. Except an Australian Wrong Number.