One night in Spring, 1976, I was woken up by a phone call. The party at the other end
had a faint accent and asked for "Dr. Osman". I told him that I was not Dr. Osman, but Dr. Oostdam,while in the meantime my thoughts raced around something like:
This man must have called the College switchboard and asked for Dr. Othman. Because I used to get many more phone calls than the usual faculty member, the operator must have thought the man wanted me. Dr. Othman was from the Middle East and some years ago we had had a Dean who was a Palestinian. What was his name again? Of course, Dr. Hamid....
So rather than just hanging up like anyone would if called out of bed at midnight, I asked him if he happened to be Dr. Hamid. He was, and expressed his surprise that I remembered him. I did not say that I had never talked with him before, but asked him what he was doing here in Millersville because I thought he had taken a job in the Middle East.
|He said he was now the Acting Director General of the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research and here to do some recruiting.
"Interesting," I said, and invited him for lunch the next afternoon at our "new" house on Spring Valley Road - he said he owned some property nearby and we wished each other goodnight.
Shortly before noon the next day Hamid arrived and I made him a cup of coffee.
He asked if he could use my phone and proceeded to talk to someone he had apparently thought he had persuaded to come to Kuwait and fly along the coast in a helicopter.
Apparently the man at the other end was turning him down, because he said he was too old to do that type of fieldwork. "But you look very healthy and active, Dr. Tarzwell" said Hamid and before I knew it I interjected: "Hamid, if this is Clarence Tarzwell, could I please speak with him for a minute?" Since it was my phone anyhow, he let me talk, and the moment I talked with Dr. Tarzwell, he remembered me. He said that he had been asked to set up the KISR Marine Pollution Program, but felt too old. "What a pity," I said, "It sounds like a fascinating opportunity!" "Yes", he agreed, but he was just too old and it was too risky. He then said that this would be just my cup of tea, upon which I suggested he tell that to Hamid, and handed the phone back. Apparently he said a lot of good things about me, because immediately after the call, Hamid offered me the job, which fitted very well in my program because I had my first sabbatical coming up in July, 1976......
So, two instances where normally one would either just "hang up the phone" saying "wrong number", or not listen to another person's telephone conversation &/or already have forgotten the name "Tarzwell" three years after a brief meeting....
Anyhow, I did not and this secured me a 2 year assignment in Kuwait.
Another set of examples follows: The 3 Jordans / Liberia and Baseler / Korea/ UNDP cases.
But just think of the dozens of times one misses out on such opportunities....
NOTE: Clarence Tarzwell passed away on May 2, 1993 at the age of 85 . He authored 125 publications.