Sorry, Wrong Number

Joe Lavin's Humor Column

Sorry, Wrong Number

December 29, 1999

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Is it me or are there a lot more wrong numbers these days? It's not surprising, of course. With so many extra phone numbers, fax lines, cell phone numbers, beeper numbers, and God knows what else to remember, we're bound to get a few digits wrong.

Just about everyone I know has an interesting wrong number story. My friend Jody, for example, gets the same call from the same person at least once a year. "Could I talk to John please?" he always asks.

"Speaking," she always responds much to his confusion. This has been taking place for seven years now.

Another friend once got a message from a woman thanking him for "last night." Later, she called again and was especially horrified when he told her that she had been dialing the wrong number. Meanwhile, last year on my voice mail, I found a message from a very drunk girl who thought she was calling her boyfriend. "I want sex, sex, and more sex, ba-beee!" she proclaimed loudly. Alas, she left no return number.

My father perhaps has the best wrong number story. This fall, an advertisement in a Wilmington, North Carolina newspaper accidentally listed his toll-free number as the phone number for a Wilmington bail bonds company. Suddenly, his phone was ringing off the hook at all hours. "I don't want to go back to jail, man. You gotta help me," one man told my father's answering machine in the wee hours of the morning. Others sounded as if they might have been using their one and only phone call from jail just to talk to my Dad's answering machine.

Meanwhile, the owner of the company was distraught. "I figure this cost me about $15,000," he said when my father eventually reached him.

"Well, look on the bright side," my father said. "You're doing a lot more business than I am." My father is a stockbroker. Wall Street may be hot these days, but it's apparently nothing compared to the booming Wilmington, North Carolina bail business.

Personally, I think my father may have missed an excellent opportunity to get more business. "Well, that's all very well bailing out your son, but have you considered instead using that money to invest in In the long-term, it does seem to be a much stronger investment than your deadbeat son."

This being the Era of the Internet, the wrong number syndrome has also gone high tech. I'm now getting almost as many wrong e-mails as wrong numbers. Recently, I checked a seldom-used e-mail account of mine only to discover that I was receiving the e-mail of a gay Chicago man named JD. I don't know JD, but apparently, his e-mail address is close to mine, and he's accidentally giving out my address as his own.

You're probably wondering how I know that JD is gay. Well, it became rather obvious when I received a message from Jeff with the eye-catching subject "orgy."

Hey JD,
I'm trying to get a group together for the evening of 12/23 at a near north side hotel (the new Hilton Garden Inn). I know the date isn't great but it will be the only chance while my partner is out of town. If you're available, would love to "have" you. Let me know. Jeff

The next message was from Robert who wanted to know whether JD would like to be "serviced by a hot buddy." I would quote more, but -- trust me -- you don't really want me to. The best part was at the end. After two paragraphs of the most explicit "servicing" suggestions, he wrote, "I have to be discreet. Here's my work number."

I considered calling him at work to explain the exact definition of the word "discreet," but I thought better of it. I decided to do nothing. I assumed in time that JD would discover why these men weren't writing back. At first, he might think that they weren't writing because they didn't like him, but eventually he would have to realize he was giving out the wrong address, right?

Wrong. A week later, I received a short message from someone named Illnied. Along with the message was an attached photo. Against my better judgement, I opened it only to find Illnied displayed there in all his indiscreet glory. Yes, thanks to JD, I was now getting pictures of naked men in my inbox.

This was getting to be too much. Finally, I crafted a brief response to Illnied:

Dear Sir,
In the future, you might want to consider checking that you have the right address before sending out photos of yourself.

Not the JD you were looking for.

An embarrassed Illnied seems to have told JD about this. At the very least, I no longer seem to be getting JD's mail. I can only hope things stay that way.

My father, however, isn't so lucky. His number is still floating around the North Carolina jail scene. Just last Tuesday, he got one call at 4:30 a.m. on his office phone. "Yes, I'm here at the Ashborough Jail, and I was hoping you could get my daughter out. I have the money, and I'm standing here waiting right now. Her name is April H------. Thank you."

It's over a week later. I wonder if April and her Dad are still waiting at that jail.

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