Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First Contact

The other day I got a text:

"We have a 4o cup coffee maker to use. We are gettin a room to. Yea!"

I have no idea what it means either. I mean, what do you do with a 40 cup coffee maker and a room?

Let me explain. Or try to.

I moved to Minneapolis nearly 4 years ago. When I got here, I got a new phone number, one with a 612 area code. Like many things I buy, it was second hand. Unfortunately, unlike a vintage dress, it's old life couldn't be simply washed out of it. For months and months, I'd get phone calls, voice mails, text messages for someone named "Keri" or maybe "Carrie" or "Carey" or "Karrey." Occasionally, I'd try to imagine who this Keri person was who had my phone number before. At first, it seemed like a lot of the people who were calling were old, so I thought that maybe Keri was an old person with a young person's name. But then she got phone calls from people who sounded young too. Maybe she was a young person who had a lot of old friends.

You'd think that such exercises involving imaging this other person who used to have my phone number would or could be mildly amusing. They weren't particularly. Perhaps it was because Keri isn't an interesting person. But, then again, I don't think that anyone listening to voice mails left for me or receiving text messages intended for me would think I was very interesting. They'd probably just think that I'm always apologizing for being late and that my sister leaves extremely long, chatty voice mails. And they'd be right.

So for months and months, I'd explain, with a totally exasperated tone of voice, "This is no longer Keri's phone number." Texts and voice messages, I'd just ignore. Gradually, the wrong numbers (on this phone number anyway) tapered off.

But a few weeks ago, I got one again.

"Keri, i forgot to respond for your shower on sunday. I cant come. I sorry. Its my bday and i had plans. U have fun."

One of Keri's friends still, after four years, had the wrong phone number programmed into his/her phone. Part of me thought about texting them back and explaining that they'd gotten it wrong. But, then again, if this person is such good friends with Keri, they'd sort it out.

Then came another text:

"Hi keri, I will b at your house at 4 tonight."

Surely this person would show up at Keri's house and they'd have this conversation:

Keri: What are you doing here?
Texter: I told you I'd be here at 4.
Keri: No you didn't.
Texter: I sent you a text.
Keri: I didn't get it.
Texter: Right here. [Shows Keri the text.]
Keri: Oh! That's no my phone number anymore! It hasn't been my phone number in four years! Here's my new one! That poor person who has my old phone number! We should send him/ her a box of chocolates for all of her trouble!

... they'd be able to sort out what was going on and I'd receive a box of chocolates.

And then I got the coffee maker text. And finally, on Sunday:

"GREAT NEWS: PET scan shows no sign of spread of cancer to other parts of body! PRAISE GOD!!! Much love, Donna."

Eric and I discussed possible texts to send back, most of them were pretty snarky. But I didn't want to ruin Donna's celebration. And now. Well, now I feel almost too embroiled in Keri's life to just suddenly start texting back, "Hey! Wrong phone number, but congrats on the no cancer spreadage!" And part of me is wondering, if Donna and Keri haven't sorted this out yet, after four years, then maybe they're just not very good friends. Maybe Keri intentionally never gave Donna her new phone number. Maybe I'm doing Keri a favor by not responding.

There's probably some sort of a lesson or a short story or an essay in here. Something in this idea of making random contact with someone, about how much we all have in common, or about how little we all have in common, or about how technology both brings us together and separates us.

Or maybe not.

Maybe it's all just a misunderstanding.

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