"Hi, I'm looking for CODA."
"What? Cobra? Who is this?"
"No, I said I was looking for CODA."
"Copa, as in the Copacabana?"
"No, CODA, as in Codependents Anonymous. I need help."
"Oh, gosh, I'm sorry, you must have the wrong number."
"But my therapist gave me this number. He said it was for Codependents Anonymous."
"Gee, I'm really sorry. Maybe you should try calling 411."
"Why would my therapist give me the wrong number?"
"Ah, I don't know. Like I said, this definitely isn't CODA."
"Well what is this place?"
"It's just a private residence."
"Like an apartment?"
"Yeah, like an apartment. Maybe you could call your therapist back and tell him what happened. That way--"
"Geez, this is the absolute worst time to have a crisis and have nobody to talk to. I can't believe this."
"Um, listen, I'm sort of in the middle of something, maybe, ah--maybe the number is in the yellow pages. In fact, I'm sure it is."
"You mind if I ask what your name is?"
"OK, I'm gonna try the yellow pages and 411. If they don't have the number though, I'm calling you back."
"But I really won't be able to help you. I mean, I have a BA in English lit. I'm totally ill-prepared for counseling. Not that I don't think it's a good thing. It's great--I mean--it's not great that you feel like you need therapy, but the fact that you're willing to seek help and talk about your problems, well, that's great, I mean, you're not like, denying it or whatever."
"Yeah. Thanks. Gosh, I feel better talking to you. Really I do."
"Yeah, really. Mind if I call you again?"
"My name is Joe. I'm from Palos Hills."
People call my home five, sometimes ten times a day. Some of them weep. Others sound nervous, like they're calling from work. Some seem embarrassed and try to make a big joke out of the whole thing ("Did I say CODA? I meant cola, like Coca-Cola? Heh, heh, heh. Bye!") Then there are the lonely hearts, the ones who want to chat. Sometimes they ask me out. Some leave lewd messages about "liking my voice."
I try to explain that this is not CODA. I had just moved into my apartment, and like everybody else, I took the number the phone company gave me. Within minutes after the hookup, the CODA people were looking for me. It's like I have a neon sign on my forehead that says Bug Me. But then again, I always wondered what it would be like to be a shrink.
Some recent calls include:
"Is this Anonymous Adult Children of Alcoholics?"
"I'm looking for Spanish-speaking CODA..."
"I thought this was the hotline for battered wives."
"Aren't you the Adults from Dysfunctional Families clinic?"
"I called you yesterday, and even though I know this isn't CODA, I just wanted to call again to say thanks for talking. It was really nice."
"Ah, I was wondering if you'd call me back and let me know if you have the forwarding number for CODA because I can't seem to find it."
"I've left several messages and I really would appreciate you calling me back. I know this isn't CODA but my hospital support group swears this is the right number so I'd really like to know what is going on."
"Um yes, I was told to call you after a group session in Hoffman Estates. They said you were the best clinic and you were free..."
"Hello CODA? I need you!"
Now my answering machine clearly states that this number "is not CODA and to find CODA, you should dial 411." But these people do not want to dial 411. They do not want me to tell them to look elsewhere. They want me. They don't care who I am or where I come from. They just need to talk.
For a while I wrote down phone numbers and called people back during my lunch hour.
"Hi listen, you called my number looking for CODA, but I'm not CODA. My number is a private residence."
"A private facility? How much does it cost?"
"No, a private residence. Like, that's where I live. There are no doctors there." At least not usually.
"Oh. So why are you calling me?"
"Well, you left four messages, so I thought maybe I should call you back just to let you know that you should call your doctor back and find out the right number."
It doesn't matter what I do. If I call them back, they think I'm crazy. If I don't call them back, they think there's a conspiracy going on over at the CODA clinic and they're being blown off. So the big question is why don't I just change my number and avoid all the trouble? What, and miss out on all the fun?