Whenever there's trouble on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, among the first people to find out are the employees at The Cape Exchange.
The phone number for the Cape St. Claire consignment shop had its former life with the Maryland Transportation Authority, and that history often leads to some confused, often irate callers.
Exchange owner Michele Skarwecki said she'll go for weeks without getting calls like that. But when there's a serious incident and traffic gets backed up, she gets flooded with angry calls asking why the bridge is moving so slowly.
On Tuesday, the westbound bridge was shut down for inspection, and Skarwecki said once again the phone started ringing off the hook. Those phone conversations go something like this, she said:
Skarwecki: "Hello, Cape Exchange."
Caller: "Yeah, I wanted to get a traffic update on the bridge. What's going on over there?"
Skarwecki: "I'm sorry, you have the wrong number, this is The Cape Exchange."
Caller: "What does it look like on the bridge?"
One man called and left a ranting message on the shop's voicemail, asking for a call back. When Skarwecki called back, he started yelling at her, saying he had missed his flight because of the bridge traffic.
She's tried to find the source of the problem, but so far the source hasn't been identified. When she asks callers how they were directed, often they will say the operator led them there.
The phone company called Skarwecki once to tell her they had conducted an investigation into the problem. Their conclusive statement: "You should not be getting these calls."
Things have gotten better over time, Skarwecki said. However, yesterday was a resurgence.
"It was craziness. We probably got more than 25 calls," she said. "When they realize they don't have the right place, they're so silent, and then they say, 'Oh my god, I am so sorry.' But, we'll also get hangups."
After getting dozens of these kinds of calls, and repeatedly stating that they have the wrong number, Skarwecki said she'll sometimes play along, saying the cars aren't moving.
"I said, 'There's cars—lots of cars," she said, laughing. "At some point, you just have to have a sense of humor about it."
The Cape Exchange's correct phone number is 410-757-6000. Information on the Bay Bridge can be obtained by calling 1-877-BAYSPAN.