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Ernesto, check your number and call your mother - EXCELSIOR, YOU FATHEAD!

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February 21st, 2011


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08:44 pm - Ernesto, check your number and call your mother
Somebody has started inadvertently giving out my phone number as theirs. It happens to the best of us every now and then. Usually you can convince enough of their chums that no, you really aren't the person they're looking for, the person eventually wises up to their own phone number, and then your life paths diverge once more and off you go. Rarely do you have to deal with the kind of Wrong Number Dialler who ends up angry at and offended by you, as if it is your fault they got the wrong number in the first place and now you have the audacity to claim that they may have actually just done something wrong. I'm usually cool with wrong number diallers; I don't get mad or even get mad back, I just say nice things like "Sorry, you've got the wrong number" and "No problem" and "Good-bye". That last one is my favorite because it means I don't have to keep talking on the phone.

I got a new Wrong Number Giver-Outer recently, one whose friends and relatives speak Spanish. Very quickly. On my voice mail. A lot. I cannot determine the tone of these messages because I don't know the language very well: I know its grammatical structure is closely linked to other Romanic languages such as French, which I profess to know having once successfully navigated Montreal's red light district in search of the one supermarket open between strip clubs without having to use a word of English. I also spoke a lot of it in Paris and can still say "oui" in the world-weary, resigned Parisian accent and it's awesome. But for practical purposes, my command of the Spanish language is limited to numerous bits of pop cultural debris and a few choice phrases guaranteed to get me into trouble no matter where I go.

I got a lovely call a while ago this afternoon when I was sleeping off the Sci-Fi Marathon and wasn't a treat that was. More on that later. I was in such a deep sleep that I probably wouldn't have heard the phone ring if I hadn't set it on vibrate and then placed it on my end table next to a pile of change. That's a pretty rousing sound to be honest. The call came from an unfamiliar number, one not in my phone contacts, and that's usually a warning sign right there. However, the area code was local and on the off-chance that it might be someone I know and should have had in this phone the whole time, I answered.

"Spanish spanish spanish spanish maybe-something-sounding-like-Ernesto spanish spanish spanish?" said the person on the other line.

"Eh?" I grunted, doing my part to ensure effective, clear communication.

"Spanish spanish Ernesto spanish?" I figured I had to respond somehow, and presumably in Spanish as well since that's what opened this conversation. Another important Speaking French lesson I had learned when I was that you stood to gain more respect from the locals by making a passing attempt to, you know, actually speak the language rather than immediately asking if they knew English or worse, assuming they knew it in the first place. "Okay brain," my sleep-addled and drowsy brain said to itself, "Let's convey the message that you are not Ernesto and that this is the wrong number. Shit, what's Spanish for wrong?"

"No es Ernesto," I mumbled into the phone. "No es... numero. No habla Espanol."

This triggered a very long sentence in Spanish which ended in what I could determine were phone numbers. Numbers I had learned from Sesame Street! I know these! This must be the Wrong Number tradition of asking "So is this string of digits the ones I actually dialled into my phone?" This I could at least clarify.

"No no no," I said. "Es, um, seis-uno-siete, cinco-zero... zero? zero ocho... no, no es ocho, es, um..." and then I trailed off because if Spanish was anything like French, you say the last four digits as a pair of two-digit numbers and Big Bird had only taught me how to count to twenty. Trailing off left a very useful pause which led to the other end finally understanding "no habla Espanol" and giving up.

"Who is this?" they asked. I hate that question. It's not like knowing any answer other than "Not the person you want" will help. And shouldn't I be asking the questions? Who is this mystery Spanish speaker, who is Ernesto, and how can I find him to tell him he'd best look at the number on his shiny new cellphone again? Such questions would have to wait. I was still half-asleep. No, I was more than that, I was 3/4 asleep, I was bleary, and I was cranky. So I went for the simplest answer.

"Somebody who can't speak Spanish worth a damn," I said, and hung up. It is hard to effectively hang up dramatically with modern phones. Used to be could you just throw the receiver back down onto the hook and it'd land with a satisfying crash on your end and an abrupt click on theirs and it all felt so good. Nowadays if I want to go out with a dramatic flourish I have to dramatically take the headset away from my face, dramatically look at the touchscreen, and dramatically jab at the "END CALL" button, making sure to dramatically hold it down so the phone recognizes I that I really mean it. Take that, caller!

Ah, well. We sacrifice the little touches for technology. On the other hand, it's a small price to pay so I can play Mahjongg and WordFeud. And Game Dev Story. I hate you Game Dev Story for killing my phone batteries.

This is not the point where you helpfully throw out Spanish phrases or such for me to use in future communications. Thank you for the gesture, but that is not what this post is about. This post is all about being woken up by a phone call in a foreign language and how much fun it is when the bleary brain decides to communicate in kind without real working knowledge. If I glibly knew what to say, where's the fun in that? I am sure I could stitch together lines from a phrasebook or translating website or something. And maybe I will at some point, because I really like it when I know how to communicate. But for now I think I'll just maintain silence and wait for Ernesto to start telling his friends no, really, he didn't get that important call, are you sure you called 617-5... oh look, the number was wrong all along. (Only in this case he'd be saying that in Spanish.) It happens eventually to all Wrong Number Giver Outers. Time and history are on my side. I can wait.

(21 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:mybadhairlife
Date:February 22nd, 2011 02:05 am (UTC)
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My number used to belong to a very crooked concrete dude and his wife. Prior to 1995.

There are three people who still call me, convinced that I am lying about not being his wife and convinced that they will get their front steps fixed. Still.

Also, someone's drunk mother has been calling me on holidays and (presumably her) birthdays for over 15 years now as well. I've even spoken to her several times to ensure her that it's a wrong number, but she doesn't believe me. She thinks I'm involved in a conspiracy to keep her away from her daughter. It's very sad, but in a tatty, comical way because she's always drunk and dramatic when she leaves a message.
[User Picture]
From:desireearmfeldt
Date:February 22nd, 2011 02:35 am (UTC)
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A few weeks ago I got mistakenly cc'ed into a long extended work-related (I think, I didn't actually read the whole set of quoted emails) email discussion in French. I actually do speak French passably, so I found this kind of entertaining. More entertaining was that the intended recipient was apparently someone with my father's name (French-spelled version of his first name, our not-particularly-common French last hame). When I told my dad about this doppelganger, he said "that must be the guy I ran across on the Internet who not only has my name, but has a brother with my brother's name."
[User Picture]
From:cloudscout
Date:February 22nd, 2011 02:54 am (UTC)

IS THIS CHEDDAR CHEESE!?!?!

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I have a spare Bluetooth-to-Landline adapter and an old fashioned trimline phone here that I should send you. Then you can enjoy hanging up on wrong numbers in vintage style!
[User Picture]
From:muffyjo
Date:February 22nd, 2011 03:11 am (UTC)
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I had the pleasure of once getting a phone call like that for Joe. They asked for Joe, then didn't understand why I was making fun of them since I was clearly female and therefore not their Joe despite my insistence that I was Jo. This went around a few times while they continued to point out that I was clearly female. I explained "Yes, all my life. Kudos to you on your observatory powers but you clearly still have the wrong number which is something equally obvious and seems to be eluding you."

I believe that was when they finally hung up and I resumed whatever it was I was doing at the time.

I feel your pain.
[User Picture]
From:wring
Date:February 22nd, 2011 03:48 am (UTC)
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route your phone number to google voice. don't answer the call, let it go to voicemail, and post voicemail on lj.
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From:wring
Date:February 22nd, 2011 03:50 am (UTC)
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also, I inherited my cellphone number from a certain "Jamie" (a dude). I spoke with his uncle once, he sounded like a good man. I had to tell numerous creditors that my phone number hasn't been Jamie's in months.
[User Picture]
From:joenotcharles
Date:February 22nd, 2011 04:13 am (UTC)
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In college I moved into a house with a whole mess of roommates (none of whom were Chinese) and promptly started getting calls from China. They would always start the same way: "Hello, Canada?" in a voice that could not belong to anyone but a wizened old Chinese lady on a crackly connection. Any response was met with a string of Chinese.

What do you say to that? "Yes, this is Canada," is correct but not helpful, "No, this is not Canada," is a a lie, and anything with more nuance, such as, "We are in Canada but we are not the people in Canada you're looking for," would not get past the linguistic barrier. So we just yelled, "NO," into the phone and hung up.

This exact call came so often that eventually one roommate recorded a dead on parody of this person as the answering machine message and then we always let it ring through and checked the message to see who to call back. Apparently connecting to herself confused her enough that she stopped calling after just a few messages, or at least stopped leaving startled messages and started leaving hangups.

We left the parody on for another month until one of the myriad of roomate's uncles came to the house to find out what had happened to him, having driven 3 hours from his hometown at the request of said roommate's parents, who had been trying to reach him for weeks but panicked whenever the phone was answered by an apparently elderly Chinese lady. They were really worried about him, and we felt kind of bad.
[User Picture]
From:eeka13
Date:February 23rd, 2011 01:05 pm (UTC)
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That was particularly awesome.
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From:mmcirvin
Date:February 22nd, 2011 04:42 am (UTC)
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The bad times are when the wrong number is gotten by a debt collection agency.
[User Picture]
From:sovay
Date:February 22nd, 2011 05:31 am (UTC)
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I got a new Wrong Number Giver-Outer recently, one whose friends and relatives speak Spanish. Very quickly. On my voice mail. A lot.

When I first moved to New Haven, I kept getting calls for a man with a classically Italianate name, some of them rather aggrieved-sounding. No one would ever tell me what he'd done, but they were definitely looking for the same guy and definitely not happy about it.
[User Picture]
From:tyopsqueene
Date:February 22nd, 2011 07:43 am (UTC)
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Sometimes this story ends with the wrong number giver outer asking to buy your number because he thinks that will be 'easier' than correcting it.

O.o
[User Picture]
From:meedja
Date:February 22nd, 2011 09:23 am (UTC)
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Oh, I love my phone number. Our landline is in the middle of a cluster of business numbers, so we get loads. The local court, a bakery, and an accident repair garage. And none of them ever believe you when you say they've got the wrong number.

8 calls to the voicemail in one day, from an increasingly angry woman wanting to know if we were going to collect her Fiat Cinquecento (no, we weren't, we were on holiday). Numerous people asking if we've got the verdict yet, and how long has he been sent down for? I tend to lie to them. And debt collectors looking for "Sarah" and "Rhian", to whom I'm a lot less polite.
[User Picture]
From:tyopsqueene
Date:February 22nd, 2011 09:48 am (UTC)
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I have totally told the story about how my dad's fax number is a digit or so (in the prefix) off one of the faxes at Windsor Castle? Boy, do they get some weird stuff come through now and again.
[User Picture]
From:mmcirvin
Date:February 22nd, 2011 12:20 pm (UTC)
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So he actually is tyops royalty?
[User Picture]
From:tyopsqueene
Date:February 22nd, 2011 12:29 pm (UTC)
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More like tyops security guard and expenses clerk :D (it's mostly applications for security passes, and one bid to build the most expensive dog house I have ever seen....)
[User Picture]
From:mmcirvin
Date:February 22nd, 2011 12:25 pm (UTC)
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The city of Bristol is on the state line between Tennessee and Virginia. For many years, the 703 area code extended all the way down the west side of Virginia to there from Fairfax County, where my parents lived. And there was a hospital in Bristol whose main number was the same phone number as my parents, except it was on the Tennessee side of the line and had the other area code. So they got a lot of calls for the hospital.

Mostly what I've experienced is inheriting the phone number of some guy who had a lot of debt collectors after him and sometimes got phone calls from prison.
[User Picture]
From:eeka13
Date:February 23rd, 2011 01:04 pm (UTC)
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Apparently my grandfather (born in 1890) would get a lot of phone calls in the '40s for a cab company that was close to his number, and would tell the people all the cabs were out and wouldn't be back any time soon.
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From:zyrya
Date:February 22nd, 2011 01:08 pm (UTC)
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I've had people INSIST I am the person they want. They couldn't possibly have written down or dialled the number incorrectly, or the person gave them the wrong number, or the phone company has buggered up the line; the only CONCEIVABLE explanation is that I am lying about my identity.
[User Picture]
From:misquoted
Date:February 22nd, 2011 03:13 pm (UTC)
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I occasionally get calls from a number that comes up as PRIVATE. Whether I answer or let it go to voicemail, often I get silence, but sometimes I get porn sounds. A few times on Sunday mornings (when I always let it go to voicemail), I've gotten sermons. Literally, church sermons.
[User Picture]
From:batyatoon
Date:February 23rd, 2011 01:39 am (UTC)
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I'm just kind of delighted by your description of how to hang up dramatically with cellphones.
[User Picture]
From:minkrose
Date:February 23rd, 2011 11:42 pm (UTC)
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Recently, someone has been signing up for some kind of online money scam thing with my-husband-Andy's phone number. YEARS ago, like three or four, he got a wrong number for Alfredo. This was funny because Andy is blonde and pale (Scandinavian) and Alfredo would be a fine nickname for him. Andy's cellphone is still a Chicago area code and someone in Chicago thinks they have his number. Anyway, the Alfredo name was so damned funny we remembered it but we hadn't heard from them again until recently. Right around the time of our wedding, when we were on the train and literally together 24 hours a day for our honeymoon, he started getting more wrong numbers for Alfredo, but since he didn't want to talk to the people on his honeymoon, didn't make an effort to find out who the real person was.

I pointed out that in the ALIAS tv show, wrong numbers are always her cue to go have secret meet ups, and that clearly after his death, the FBI was going to show up on my doorstep and say "ma'am, did you know your husband was Alfredo?" I mean, we hadn't spent this much non-stop time together in months, so he could be getting secret Alfredo calls while he's at work and I would never know!



Andy finally wrested an email address out of the last guy and he's going to email the actual person and tell him to stop giving out his number. I hope it works!
And I hope you stop getting the calls, too, Ernesto!

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