During Christmas dinner with friends, a car, headlights gleaming, stops in front of the house. We’re not expecting anyone else. In fact, we just finished the main course. Someone gets out of …
During Christmas dinner with friends, a car, headlights gleaming, stops in front of the house. We’re not expecting anyone else. In fact, we just finished the main course. Someone gets out of the car and approaches our lit front porch. A man knocks on the door. I go to open it.
The man looks a lot like Elon Musk. When he speaks, he has an accent, somewhere between British, South African, Canadian and American English. The man claims to be traveling and, no surprise, there’s no cell service. That’s legit. I look past his shoulder at the car. I don’t know anything about cars but in the dark his ride looks to me like some sort of fancy sedan.
The man asks if I have cell service and would I mind if he steps in for a signal. I laugh.
“I only have a landline,” I say. (Didn’t he read my column Last of the Landlines?) “And it works perfectly fine.” He seems to brighten and smirk at the same time.
I invite the man in. We’re going to have to walk through the ‘dining area,’ which is really my work space, a real mess. All the guests are sitting at a makeshift table on a bunch of hundred-year-old wooden chairs that are coming apart at the seams from old age and dry heat.
“Sorry folks,” I say, but this man is stranded and needs to use the phone. As we pass, one of the guests gasps, “Elon Musk! It’s Elon Musk!” The alleged Mr. Musk lazily lifts an open palm and smirks again. He doesn’t have eye contact with anyone. He just wants to use the phone. I take him to the kitchen, basically one step from the dining area. I point to the wall where our beige landline hangs. It has a dial. Musk looks at the phone and then at me and then at the phone again. His mouth opens, but nothing comes out.
I pick up the receiver and hand it to Musk giving him one and only one instruction.
“You have to bring the dial all the way around for each number and if you let go of it before you reach the tab, you have to start again.”
“I know. I think I used one of these…once,” he says with a tinge of sarcasm. He’s unhappy so I encourage him to start dialing as if he’s about to begin a race by shouting, “Go!”
One of the guests gets up to film the tries, but I wave her back to her seat. Alleged Musk starts over at least three times. It seems he’s about to cry, and then finally he makes it happen. I step out of the room while he speaks in muffled tones. After he hangs up, he very awkwardly bows his head and thanks me. He wants out of the house, I can tell, as fast as possible. We walk together to the door and just before he exits, he reaches into his pocket, pulls out his wallet and hands over two crisp hundred dollar bills.
“Not necessary,” I tell him.
“No, I insist,” he says adding, “Merry Christmas.”
I can see this will be a back and forth fight so I say, “I’ll accept this gift on one condition. I’d like to ask you a question.” And without waiting for his reply I lift the bills into the air, rub them together and ask, “Putting all of this aside and all that it can buy, do you consider yourself rich?”
He chuckles, “Sometimes.” And then without another word, he leaves.
I call after him, “Happy Holidays and New Year! Good luck finding your way!”
RAMONA JAN is the Founder and Director of Yarnslingers, a storytelling group that tells tales both fantastic and true. She is also the roving historian for Callicoon, NY and is often seen giving tours around town. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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