A friend recently checked himself into what I understand is a lovely little spot in the foothills of the White Mountains for some rest, relaxation and help with a nasty habit he had picked up. It’s quite an expensive retreat where everything you need is provided. The only condition is that once you commit to entering their program, you must stay. He checked in for a month.
A week passed, and then two days ago another friend and I decided we’d pay our buddy a visit. He had been living out west and we hadn’t seen him in a couple of years. He was excited about move back east, but had to attend to this problem first. We figured we’d better call before driving three hours north for our visit.
“Hello,” a man answered the phone.
“Hi,” my friend said, “Myself and a friend would like to come by and visit a friend of ours staying there, but we figured we’d better call first.”
“Who is this?” the man on the other end asked.
My friend identified himself and restated our request.
“There is no one here.” the man responded.
“What do you mean?” my friend said. “Our friend Paul is there and we’d like to stop by and visit him.”
“I can’t say anything about anyone being here and you can’t come. Don’t come up here.”
This seemed puzzling.
“Are you saying that you can not say who is or is not there?” he asked.
“I can’t say.” was the response.
“With whom am I speaking?” my buddy asked.
I can’t say.”
“Do you work there?”
“Where?” the guy asked.
This was getting ridiculous. But we understood the confidentiality of the guests, so my buddy explained, knowing that this guy could not confirm our friend’s residency, that we just wanted to come visit.
“No, don’t come here,” was again this guys response.
“We know our friend is there and we want to come visit him,” my buddy was losing his patience. “How can we do that?”
“I can’t say,” was all he got for an answer. It was beginning to sound like something out of a Monty Python or Abbott and Costello sketch.
“What if we just show up?” my buddy asked beginning to lose his patience.
“You can’t do that,” the guy said. “You can’t show up.”
“Oh yes we can!” my buddy said forcefully without revealing that we had no idea where the place was. “You can’t stop us from showing up.”
“You just can’t show up,” the robot on the phone said. “No one is allowed to just show up. You need an appointment.”
This was progress.
“Okay then,” my friend said. “I’d like to make an appointment for Saturday at noon.”
“No,” the flat voice said. This guy was getting paid to jerk us around. He was probably laughing on the other end of the phone. Maybe my friend was on a speaker phone and there was a room full of jerks laughing.
“You just said I need to make an appointment and now you won’t let me make an appointment. What are you running up there, a witness protection program?”
“You need to be invited to visit and then you must make an appointment,” was the response.
“How do I get invited if you won’t let me talk with my friend,” my buddy asked.
“Who?” the guy said.
“Paul, my friend that is staying there. If I can’t talk with Paul how is he going to know to invite me?”
“Paul who?” the guy asked.
Growing irritated, my buddy said, “Look, I understand that you can’t say whether or not someone is there – for privacy reasons. But, work with me will ya? How can we come up and visit our friend?”
The guy on the other end, who had demonstrated absolutely not personality or understanding before began to soften.
“You might receive a phone call in a couple of days,” the guy said. “It will be from someone letting you know if you’re invited. If you are invited, you’ll be provided lunch, but then you must leave.”
“Then you’ll ask Paul if he wants to see us and if he does we can come on Saturday for lunch?” my buddy asked.
There was a sigh on the other end.
“Are we getting anywhere with this?” my friend asked.
“I can only say that you may or may not receive a phone call in a couple of days,” was the response.
“Okay, so our friend, who may or may not be there, may or may not invite us to lunch on Saturday, and someone may or may not call us? Have I got it right?”
“It could be Sunday, I can’t say.”
This was right out of Saturday Night Live.
“How are we suppose to plan to come if we don’t know if we’re coming and we don’t know when?” My buddy was irritated.
“I can’t say anymore,” was all the guy said.
“You people could be doing anything up there and no one would know. You might be conducting experiments on people or holding people against their will. What kind of a place is it you’re running?”
My buddy was fed up with this guy. We knew our friend was there. What was the big secret and why couldn’t we see him?
The guy on the other end didn’t respond to my friend’s rant.
“So we have to wait for some unidentified person to call us and invite us to lunch on either Saturday or Sunday then?”
My buddy had admitted defeat.
“Yes,” was all the guy would say.
“Is Paul doing alright?” my buddy made a final attempt to learn something, but the guy was a pro.
“Who was the guy?” I asked my friend after he told me his story.
“He wouldn’t say, but he sounded French.”
“French? How do you know that?” I asked.
“I know when someone sounds French,” he said. “And it wasn’t French Canadian. The guy was French.”
“What do we do now?” I asked.
“Wait for the phone call, I guess,” my buddy shrugged.
“What’s the name of this place?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” my buddy said. “His brother said it was in New Hampshire. He knew the town and the road, but Paul took care of all the details, so his brother didn’t know more than that.”
“How did you get the phone number?” I asked.
“From his brother. Paul gave it to him.”
“We should go up there anyway on Saturday,” I said. “Just show up.”
“We don’t know where it is, or what it’s called,” my friend reminded me. “The road it’s on is a secondary highway. It’s long. The place could be anywhere and obviously, they don’t want to be found.”
“But Paul found them somehow,” I said. “We should be able to find them.”
The views and opinions in the Enterprise blogs are those of the author and are not neccessarily shared by Falmouth Publishing.