Brrrr. Brrrr. Brrrr. The noise brought a stirring from a deep sleep. Disoriented by the disturbance and with the room in complete darkness, it took a few moments to realize that the noise was the telephone.
Why was the telephone ringing? We were in a hotel in Wexford, it must be a mistake. Perhaps someone has asked for an alarm call. It was not possible that anyone would have been trying to contact us, no-one knew where we were staying. If an emergency had meant that someone had wished to call, we both had mobile telephones. The telephone could be ignored.
Brrrr. Brrrr. Brrrr. The noise continued, the telephone giving an impression that it had survived from the 1970s, its tone recalling the sound of one of those pastel-coloured trim phones.
Perhaps there was some reason for it to be ringing, perhaps there was some urgent message from the reception.
Sleepily getting out of bed, I picked up the receiver, “Hello.”
“What time is it?” The voice of a countrywoman of older years.
“I don’t know what time it is.”
“Isn’t that reception?”
“No, this is room 314, you have phoned another room. We are guests in the hotel.”
“I’m in room 314, I want the reception.”
“No, we are in room 314, you have phoned room 314.”
“Perhaps I’m in room 413. I want the reception.”
“Why didn’t you dial zero.”
“I did. I kept pressing zero and no-one answered. I don’t know what time it is.”
There was a temptation to ask why, if there had been no answer when she had dialled zero, she had then dialled what she believed was her own room number; the question would not have been helpful.
“There should be a clock on your television set, but hold on.” The Best Beloved handed me her mobile phone. “It’s quarter past six.”
“I didn’t know what time it was. I’ve been awake since four. Are you visitors to the hotel?”
“Yes, we are visitors, like yourself.”
“I’m here with a friend, there is a group of us. Do you know my friend?”
“No, I don’t know your friend.”
“It’s quarter past six, you said?”
Sleep did not return easily, there was a shallow drowsiness until light and sound outside announced it was time to get up. There had been a temptation to try to call back, to check the woman was well, but there was a fear that this would further confuse her, or cause her unnecessary embarrassment.
Going to the reception after breakfast, a charming woman assured us that the reception had been manned all night and that any call to the zero number would have been answered. Had the woman called the number and received an answer and been confused? it would be impossible to know.
Drinking tea and contemplating the conversation, what would it mean to feel alone, disoriented, far from home, unable even to do straightforward things? Confusion is a horrible thing.