When my husband and I bought our first home, the phone company gave us a new telephone number. The number we were given was recycled – meaning, it had previously belonged to someone else. That “someone else” happened to be a girl named LaShawn.
Within a few days of receiving our new telephone number, it became clear that being the recipients of LaShawn’s old number was going to be a problem. Our first inkling occurred around 3 in the morning, when the sound of our ringing phone jarred me from sleep. I frantically jumped out of bed, fearing someone was calling with an emergency.
“LaShawn baby,” the voice growled, “It’s Tyrone. Where you at?”
“LaShawn?” I repeated, feeling instant relief. Everyone was okay. “I’m sorry. You have the wrong number.”
I was climbing back into bed when Tyrone called a second time. Tyrone was clearly disappointed when I answered, and he was even more disappointed when I explained that no, LaShawn was still not here, and I had no idea who she was – or where she lived.
Several nights later, we were sound asleep when the phone rang again. It was another man looking for LaShawn. When a third man called several nights after that, we started to suspect two things: first, LaShawn was popular with the gents. And second, she was giving out her old telephone number (which was now our new number) to men she didn’t want contacting her. I had a vision of LaShawn – young, slender and pretty – tearing off a slip of paper and writing down our telephone number for some creep who kept hounding her for a date. If these men hadn’t been calling our house at all hours of the night in their futile attempts to reach LaShawn, I may have found her idea clever.
At some point, it occurred to LaShawn that she could give our number to everyone, and not just the men hounding her for a late night rendezvous. Soon, banks, medical offices, and even her family started to call. Our phone began to ring off the hook, with all sorts of people looking for LaShawn.
“LaShawn! It’s Aunt Tiana! Where you been hiding at girl?”
“Hi Aunt Tiana,” I said wearily, “But this isn’t LaShawn’s number anymore.”
“It ain’t?” Aunt Tiana said, “How can that be? She just gave me this number!”
“I know, I’m sorry. But this number used to be LaShawn’s. You see, my husband and I just moved into this house and the phone company gave us LaShawn’s old number.”
“Damn!” Aunt Tiana said, “Wait till I get my hands on that girl! Trying to give me her old number like that!”
“When you do,” I said, “Could you tell LaShawn that her doctor’s office called? And the results of her pap smear are in?”
“I sure will! Now, you take care! And enjoy your new house!”
“Thanks Aunt Tiana.”
Unfortunately, not all of the calls for LaShawn were as pleasant as Aunt Tiana. Our phone rang constantly throughout the day from creditors (let me be the first to tell you that LaShawn owed a lot of money, and didn’t seem too keen on paying these people back), social service departments, and former boyfriends.
I finally called our phone company in desperation and explained what was occurring. The representative was apologetic – and slightly intrigued – for the many intrusive calls we were receiving on behalf of LaShawn. For an $80 fee, we could get a new telephone number. I asked if we could have a brand new number, one that had never belonged to anyone else. While that wasn’t possible, the representative explained, she could find a telephone number that had formerly been used for a computer modem. I took it.
Twenty minutes later, our new telephone number was active and our phone became strangely silent. When the phone did ring, it was someone actually calling for me, and not LaShawn. It felt like an older, popular sister had moved out of the house taking all of the drama with her.
Sometimes I think about LaShawn, and wonder if she’s made her Chase credit card payments, or if she and Aunt Tiana finally connected. I also really hope Aunt Tiana gave LaShawn the message about her pap smear results.