TRUE STORY: a single misdialed phone number last week led to angry words which escalated to an armed battle, I heard from reader Sunita Chau.
It all started when a man in his early 20s accidentally phoned a man of the same age. Hostility broke out. Nasty text messages grew into a row in a car park and then to a gunfight. Police jailed one man and sent the other to hospital in a “serious condition”. The incident happened a few days ago in the US state of Georgia, but similar trivial errors have escalated to shootouts in the Philippines and Vietnam.
These incidents tend to follow similar patterns.
A: “Hi, can I speak to Susy?”
B: “You got the wrong number, dude.”
A slams down the phone.
B uses caller ID to dial A.
B: “Hey. Don’t slam the phone down on me without apologizing, you rude moron.” B then slams the phone down on A.
A then dials B again. A: “You calling me a rude moron? I should kick your butt.”
B: “Oh yeah?”
A: “Oh yeah.”
A: “OH YEAH?”
B: “OH YEAH.”
An hour later, the city is littered with dead bodies.
If only people listened to King Solomon, who 2000 years ago anticipated misdialed phone calls when he wrote: “A soft answer turneth away wrath.”
If you can’t manage a soft answer, answer the phone thus. “This is a recording. You have reached Pay-Per-Second Phone Services. You will be charged our $200 minimum fee for this call, plus $10 per second.” They will slam down that phone and never dial your number again.
One reader got vast numbers of irritating voicemail messages meant for a guy called Steven. Eventually she left a recording on her phone saying: “If you are looking for Steven, this is not the right number for him.” Now she gets even more voicemail. They are from her friends and family, and say: “So, who’s Steven?” Everyone is convinced she has a secret boyfriend. Beyond irritated, she is saving up to buy a gun.
But most annoying are people who send you unsigned text messages meant for other people. I had a text message exchange which went like this.
HIM: “Meet you are 4.30 by the clock.”
ME: “Who are you?”
HIM: “This is Jamie.”
ME: “You got the wrong number.”
HIM: “Oops. Sorry, dude.”
ME: “Stop already. It costs me money every time you send me a text.”
HIM: “Yeah, I know. I just wanted to apologize.”
ME: “Okay. Shut up already.”
HIM: “Okay! I’m shutting up!”
ME: “SHUT UP”.
HIM: “I HAVE shut up.”
ME: “No you haven’t.”
HIM: “Yes I have.”
ME: ‘NO YOU HAVEN’T.”
HIM: “YES I HAVE.”
I showed this conversation to a friend of mine and told her that this was clear, black and white proof that the world contains idiots.
She read through it and said, “No, this is clear, black and white proof that the world contains males.”
What an insult. After brooding on this for a while, I sent her a text telling her to meet me at the car park at midnight with a weapon of her choice. I sent it to the right number. I think.