Stranger Texting: When Cell Phones Get Creepy


When I changed my cell phone carrier back in college, it was still during a time when changing providers meant you also had to change your number. For those of you who are younger than 18, this may seem slightly prehistoric, so to alleviate any further questions about my age, yes, I grew up with a color TV, and no, I didn’t get an iPod for my 11th birthday because back then Apple wasn’t cool yet. Also, iPods hadn’t been invented.

I switched from T-Mobile to Verizon, and ended up with Keith’s number. You won’t know who Keith is because I still don’t know who Keith is. But I will tell you that he was a dude who, based on the number of phone calls I got for him in any given week, lived his life in a series of troublesome jams. People would constantly leave voice mails for him with matters so urgent I once called someone back just to let them know that my number was no longer Keith’s. Business transactions gone wrong, his grandmother in the hospital, that kid in China is now available for adoption and WHAT? Oh my God, Keith! Your HIV test results are in, and YOU REALLY NEED TO UPDATE YOUR PHONE NUMBER.

Okay, maybe the HIV thing was a stretch, but I started getting worried for Keith as if I knew him. When people finally stopped calling for him, I couldn’t even be relieved because I worried that maybe he was dead. And since no one had his new phone number, no one would ever know. I needed to find Keith to convey all the messages left for him, while simultaneously calling every person that ever called me to let them know that Keith might be in danger! Grave danger? Is there any other kind, Lieutenant? And my dad thinks I get too emotionally invested in things. I really don’t know where he gets that idea.

It’s been quite a while since someone has called me thinking I was someone else. In fact, it’s been so long since it’s happened I forgot to appreciate that it doesn’t happen anymore, which is probably why it happened last night. I was doing some work around 7 p.m. when I got a text from a number I didn’t recognize.

Mystery Number: I know who u r danielle, i’m watching u threw ur window right now.

A text like that is creepy no matter what, but it was especially unsettling because MY WINDOWS AND BLINDS WERE WIDE OPEN. I tried to play it really cool since I’m obviously not Danielle, and this was a mistake, but I was mildly concerned that Mystery Number could have been someone who was trying to stalk an ex-girlfriend, and accidentally started following me. I sat still on the sofa and considered my escape options. Of course, I realized that there was little reason for me to think I’d need to escape the safety of my apartment, but if the next text I got said, Your mouth is covered in powdered sugar from the donuts you’ve been eating, I would have likely called 9-1-1. I decided to text back.

Me: Wrong number. Not danielle.

Mystery Number: Yes u r, its on facebook.

Me: U have the wrong number. Not on facebook. Ur joke is on the wrong person so stop texting me.

Mystery number: U know who im am, im matt.

At this point, I pulled the Damsel in Distress card, and called The Boss.

“Just call them,” he said.

“Uh … is that a good idea?”

“Yeah. They already know your number because they’re texting you, so maybe if they hear your voice they’ll know they got the wrong number.”

“Okay, fine,” I said. “But can you stay on the phone with me while I do it?”

“Well, I’m kind of in a meeting …”

“Great! It’s ringing!”

The Boss stayed on the phone with me, but Mystery Number went to voice mail, which I didn’t understand because if you were just texting me that means THE PHONE SHOULD STILL BE IN YOUR HAND. I hung up with The Boss, and then got another text from Mystery Number.

Mystery number: I got ur number, im matthew lee, u out ur num on facebook no need to be scared, i was just joking

Me: YOU HAVE THE WRONG PERSON. Seriously dude. Check the number ur dialing AND STOP TEXTING ME. I’M NOT ON FACEBOOK.

That was the last exchange, presumably because this guy FINALLY CHECKED THE NUMBER and realized he was texting the wrong person. But here’s a thought for Danielle: DON’T PUT YOUR PHONE NUMBER ON THE INTERNET. Since I’m not on Facebook, I’m not down with the cultural trends of the social network, but is that what people do? Post their phone numbers on the Internet? That’s like publishing your home address, or taking a picture of your license plate. All of which are things that should be on your Don’t Ever Do This list. Especially if you’re a woman. Any lunatic could find your number and subsequently text you saying he’s looking at you through your window. And then you’ll be forced to wash the powdered sugar off your face.


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