Mrs. Caldwell phones our office every time she hears about an earthquake. She has a theory, you see, about the end of the world and the return of the Lord (so I understand–I’ve never spoken with her) and for the last ten years whenever the news reports a quake, she has called our office, double-checks the magnitude with us, plots it on her map, and goes back to whatever she does when she doesn’t record earthquakes.
She specifically calls Bob, in our office, and we’ve spent plenty of time picking on him with the “Bob’s girlfriend’s on the line” jokes. Mrs. Caldwell is from South Carolina and is probably as insane as bat crap. She is always polite, however, despite her attempts to recruit Bob to her cause, before the guy casts off his heritage and jumps aboard the Mayan Spaceship of Cataclysmic Doom.
I often think of Mrs. Caldwell. She’s a nice person–in fact, she stopped calling for several months (we thought she’d died or been taken away by the mothership), because she didn’t want to be bothering us with everything. She talks on one of those old-timey phones you have to crank; the mouthpiece is bolted to the wall. I bet she makes cookies, and thanksgiving at her place is quite a spread. Since Mr. Caldwell died, and the kids moved away to the city, things just haven’t been the same. Her kitchen is filled with chrome yellow Formica furniture, and her study is a dark room piled with magazines and years of dust. This is where she does her meditation and studying. She has a leather-bound book where she logs each earthquake for the future. December 31, 2012, she will prove to us all that she was right; by then, of course, it’ll be too late.
How many Mrs. Caldwells do you have in your life? They don’t look any different from you or me, unless you can spot the people who weaned on dinosaur milk (another interesting person from my reference desk). You may go to church with one, or smiled as you helped her reach a bag of cat food, high up on the shelf at the supermarket. I have a feeling that, we all wish we knew our future with 100% certainty. Maybe we are all Mrs. Caldwell, just a little bit; we just don’t like to admit it because the people in the library will laugh at us when we hang up the phone.