My mother has, for as long as I can remember, maintained that one should never call another human being after eight at night.
Unless, of course, it is an absolute emergency, like a house on fire, a death in the family, or something worse. To this day, she gets this look of terror when her phone rings at night.
I can see her mind racing as she answers, wondering what news of doom she is about to hear.
Well, having worked at newspapers most of my life, and mostly at night, I also get the heebie-jeebies when a midnight ring cuts into your soul – but for very different reasons.
Back in the days before cellphones and internet, it was always the junior reporters who had to face up to the after-dark callers. It was horrible.
You see, often the night callers were either slightly tipsy, slightly crazy, or a bit of both. I must stress often, not always. Sometimes they were completely wacko.
The tipsy ones usually wanted the answer to a random question. Trying to decipher a drunk man’s babble calling from a pay phone in some obscure bar with a background cacophony that sounds like a recording from hell is quite daunting.
To then admit you don’t know if Neil Armstrong landed on the moon on a Tuesday or a Friday? Oh the horror. I still don’t know who won the Currie Cup in 1975, or if a VW beetle really does float, or how many teeth a crocodile has, or if nail polish is just small bottles of Duco paint.
And I don’t care. The wackos were worse. I must have heard every conspiracy theory in the book. Twice. From different perspectives. And they all had proof – between midnight and 4am of course.
Then along came the internet. Oh how I love Mrs Google. She knows everything and she is more than willing to answer all the questions instantly.
And don’t forget Facebook. How marvellous that the world’s loonys can publish their messages of doom and conspiracy facts themselves for the world to see.
I still work at night and the phone still rings, but I don’t answer it any more.