By Hannah Reich Berman

Embarrassing moments are my specialty. I might be considered an expert on the topic, since I suspect that I have more of those moments than do most people. Of course, I can’t be sure if that’s true; it’s possible that I feel embarrassment when there is no need for me to feel it. Let’s just say that there are a good many things that make me cringe. My most recent experience with discomfort (a word somewhat kinder than embarrassment) occurred during a phone call.

As I age, I seem to be busier than ever. It’s something akin to being a snowball that, as it rolls along, gathers more and more snow. I do the same thing but I do it with relationships. As the years pass, I collect more and more friends and acquaintances. I appreciate the fact that there are so many I can call friends, but there is a downside to it as well. I sometimes find it difficult to keep up. I don’t mean to be neglectful. I often think about people, but they usually come to mind when I can’t sleep, at 2 in the morning. That is also a time that, if I did call the pal who was on my mind, it would put a quick end to the friendship. I often think of a friend while I’m driving, and that is no time to be making a call. Then there are times when I think of calling someone but suddenly remember that the person is on vacation and out of the country.

In other words, my intentions are good but I make far fewer calls than I would like. In addition to not initiating calls I also do not return calls in a timely fashion. All of this is anything but flattering, but I have no problem admitting it. Here is where the embarrassing scenario recently entered into the picture that is my life.

There is one friend in particular whom I never remember to call at an opportune time. In truth, there is more than one friend who falls into that category. But the person that I have in mind at this juncture is someone who once recommended a plumber to me. I used that plumber and was very happy with his work. Unfortunately, last week I needed his services once again. After searching high and low I could not find the guy’s phone number. My filing skills are not the best, nor are my phonebook entries. Hubby, who knew me better than anyone else knows me, used to say that I had the simplest filing system known to mankind. He would say that I file everything under the letter A, as in “a contract,” “a lease,” “a plumber,” “a house painter,” “a beautician,” etc. So much for finding the plumber’s number in my personal phonebook!

Finding him in the Nassau County book was also never going to happen, since I couldn’t remember his name or the name of his company. The only thing that I did remember was the name of the person who had told me about him in the first place. He was actually a friend of my husband’s, and in the four years since Hubby has been gone, this person has been very solicitous of me. He calls regularly to see how I am getting along, and when he does he always asks if there is anything he can do for me. In spite of appreciating the calls and being pleased to hear from him, I rarely initiate a call to him. And that was where my embarrassment came into play.

I made what was a long overdue call to this man, but my reason for making the call was to get the phone number of that plumber. To my distinct discomfort, as soon as he heard my voice he said with a great deal of enthusiasm, “Hannah, it’s so nice to hear from you. I’m so glad you called. How are you?” With an intro like that, there was no way I could let him know that all I wanted was the name and number of the plumber. Instead, I spent a quarter of an hour chatting with him and making as much small talk as I was capable of.

And all the while I was silently devising a plan. I decided that I would continue to shoot the breeze and that, after we ended the call, I would wait a day before calling him again. When I did, it would be on the pretense of suddenly needing the plumber. It wasn’t an honest thing to do, so I can’t say that it was my finest hour, but it was the best I could come up with under the circumstances. And at the time it was the only way I could think of to get that plumber’s phone number. So I bit the bullet, called back 24 hours later, and went into my routine. He gave the phone number to me. That’s the way it is. v

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at or 516-902-3733.


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