Nancy over on Writerly Stuff made a post for the anniversary of 9/11. She asked where people were that day. My answer got a little long so I decided to put it here.
I was at home asleep that morning, but my husband woke me up. He'd heard about the attack on the radio while getting dressed for work and we turned on the TV to watch the news. After he left, I got on the phone and called my mother. She answered and I said, "Are you watching TV?"
She said she was and we spent the next fifteen minutes or so watching together, exclaiming and wondering and expressing our disbelief and sheer bogglement at what was going on.
Then somewhere in there I realized I wasn't talking to my mother. I'd misdialed and ended up talking to some random woman in a different area code. I hadn't bothered with a, "Hi, Mom, how's it going?" at the beginning of the conversation, so we'd just dived right into all the "OMG I don't believe this!!"
After figuring out that we were complete strangers, we kept watching the news and talking for a few more minutes, then wished each other well and hung up. I called my actual mother (more carefully this time). We got a bit of a laugh out of my story of having talked to the wrong "Mom" for a while, which probably helped some. Or maybe there was a thread of hysteria in it.
But only on a day like that would having a stranger call up and introduce herself with, "Are you watching TV?" be a welcome event. That stranger and I both needed someone -- anyone -- to talk to that morning, someone with whom we could share our tangled feelings and reactions while watching what happened on TV get worse and worse.
Thinking about it, it's the sort of event that would sound hokey if used in a story. Sure, she just happened to get someone who sounded enough like her mom that she didn't notice for all that time. Sure, she just happened to call up someone who was watching the same news program and felt like talking to some whacked-out stranger who phoned them out of the blue and didn't even give a name. It's the sort of thing that I'd eyeroll over, even if just a little, if I read it in a book.
That's the kind of day it was, though. And at the time, it didn't feel hokey at all.