I wrote this piece on April 6, 2015, not long after I got my very first smartphone.  Before this, I was using a flip phone, because it seemed easier. Shawn had to talk me into switching to a iPhone.

I didn’t try to transfer my old phone over to the new phone because I wanted a fresh start.  That turned out to be a mistake.

I read “Desperately Seeking Mario” in episode 037 of my Words of Jen podcast.

One of the problems that comes with a new (or, used but new to you) smartphone is that you may need to be assigned a new phone number.  In some cases, it is possible for people to transfer their old phone number from one phone to another. I didn’t transfer my old number over for many reasons, one of which was I wanted a fresh start.

As a result, I have gotten a number of calls, texts, and messages from people who were desperately seeking to connect with someone named Mario. I’ve never met Mario, and have absolutely no idea who he is. Even so, I’ve ended up learning a bit about his life thanks to all the people who wanted to contact him.

If, by random chance, Mario is reading this… please give your friends and family your new phone number. I’d like them to stop calling me.

In general, no one calls me. I don’t belong to a family that feels the need to make an effort to stay in touch. I get a few random emails from them every once in a while and, sometimes, a Christmas card.

I’m self-employed as a freelance writer and I get my work via email (not by phone). Most of my friends are also my husband Shawn’s friends too, and it’s just easier for them to contact him when they want to talk to both of us.

So it came as a surprise that, from the moment I got my iPhone 6, people have been calling (and texting, and using iMessage). The phone was new to me, but was actually a used phone. None of these calls were for me, though. Instead, my phone was receiving messages for the previous owner.

The first week, my phone received daily calls from what appeared to be a school district in Los Angeles, California. I live in California, but not near LA. The caller left voice messages in Spanish every day and then hung up the phone. She was trying to tell Mario that his child was absent from school that day, and the next day, and so on.

Eventually, I happened to be awake and near my phone when this person called. The woman who answered started speaking English immediately after hearing me say “hello”. She asked to speak with Mario. I explained that I’d just gotten this phone, and that I had no idea who Mario was. The woman, who I suspect might have been a school secretary, actually thanked me for letting her know that this phone number no longer belonged to Mario.

After spending about five years as a substitute teacher (and another year as a teacher’s aide in one, specific, classroom), I can understand why the woman appreciated me letting her know that Mario’s number was no longer correct. Parents are asked to give their child’s school a phone number by which they can be contacted. Some parents forget to update that information after they get a new phone number. Or, they have the same phone number and simply refuse to respond to the calls that come from their child’s school.

The school secretary can now cross off Mario’s phone number, make a note that it is no longer his number, and stop wasting her time trying to contact him there. I’m certain she’s got plenty of other parents she needs to try and get a hold of.

In the meantime, I’ve also gotten calls from Mario’s doctor, who wanted to remind him of an upcoming appointment. Mario’s pharmacist called more than a couple of times, trying to let Mario know that his prescription is ready to be picked up. The doctor stopped calling on his own. The pharmacist kept trying to contact Mario until I answered the phone and explained that this was no longer Mario’s number.

A random caller left a message (in English) from someone who appeared to be a buddy of Mario’s. The caller didn’t use the person’s name, so I assumed it was a message for Mario. The guy called to see if his friend wanted some avocados. It seems this guy took a bunch of his avocados to Farmers’ Market, but they didn’t all sell. He wanted to give the remaining avocados to someone who would eat them right away (before they went bad). I haven’t gotten any more calls from this person.

As a writer, I was trying to put together these pieces of Mario’s life into a cohesive story. What happened to Mario? His kid has been absent from school for at least a week or two. He’s missed a doctor’s appointment, and never picked up his prescription from the pharmacy. Mario missed out on a wonderful opportunity to get a bunch of free, very ripe, avocados. Somewhere along the way, Mario lost his phone number. Mario’s life was a mystery that I couldn’t solve.

The most interesting part about all these calls, that were for Mario, was that dealing with them forced me to learn how to use my phone to answer calls. I was getting lots of practice with that. Shawn taught me how to put the iPhone 6 on speakerphone, and I found that to be really helpful.

There was a day when another stranger called for Mario. I answered the phone in English – “Hello?” and heard a man respond in a mix of Spanish and broken English. He wanted to talk to Mario. Shawn was in the other room at the time, watching TV. He heard me start talking, so he muted the TV to find out what I wanted. When he heard me speaking Spanish, he realized that I was on the phone, and he went back to watching TV. (Shawn doesn’t speak Spanish).

This phone call is an example of how handy it is to be able to speak more than one language. Between my fairly-decent Spanish, and the caller’s broken English, we were able to communicate. He now knows that this phone number isn’t Mario’s number anymore. I haven’t gotten any more calls from this person since then.

Thanks to Mario, I’ve also learned how to respond to texts. One text was sent to a woman. I forget the name, but it might have been something like “Emily”. I can’t recall who sent the text, but they wanted “Emily” to know that they were willing to forgive her debt. It seems “Emily” signed up for some kind of law course, and… didn’t finish paying for it, I assume.

The text gave me directions. It said to text back “STOP” to make them stop texting me. To do it, I had to learn how to find the virtual keyboard on the phone, and how to pick out the letters that spell “STOP”. I expected this would cause the law school to stop texting me. Instead, I instantly got one more text… letting me know that they understand that I want them to stop texting me.

One more text appeared, weeks later. It was from something called “BOSS Revolution”. What is that? I decided to use my newly learned skill to respond to their text with “STOP” and leave it at that. Once again, I got a text right back from them that states that they understand that I have opted out of getting any more texts from them.

I didn’t bother to look up what “Boss Revolution” was until I started writing this blog. I’m not going to link to it, because I’m of the impression it might not be completely legit. You can download their app for free – and they give you $1.00 for doing so (if you are a new account). They suggest that you will be able to call your friends and family for free. The website can be viewed in either English or Spanish.

Before I got my iPhone 6, I was using iMessage on my home computer. It is useful when Shawn goes downtown and wants to know if I want him to bring back anything. The phone and the computer iMessage are linked. I can respond either through my phone or computer to a message I am sent.

The other day, I got a one word iMessage that appears to have been sent from an iPhone that is near me. It has my area code as the first part of the phone number of whomever sent the message. The word that got sent was: “honey”. Obviously, I didn’t respond. I’ve got no clue who sent that message, but one thing is certain. They likely didn’t intend to send it to me.

I’ve also started to get calls from someone in Tyler, Texas. This person didn’t leave a message. I haven’t given out this phone number to anyone but Shawn, so there is no way that call was actually for me. So far, the random calls, texts, and messages from strangers, seeking Mario (not me) is the most frustrating thing about my new iPhone 6.

Today, May 20, 2015, I had several voicemails on my phone from people who were looking for Mario.  The first one was from a woman who was calling for Mario from a liquor licensing agency.  It seems Mario applied for a liquor license and gave the agency my phone number.  I was able to reach a real person at the agency, to tell them that this phone number no longer belongs to Mario, and to have them stop calling me.

The second caller was also a woman.  She was calling for Mario from a credit and collections agency.  When I called back, I got some guy who must be from their call center.  I tried to explain that someone from his company called me, asking for Mario, and that I had no idea who Mario is. The guy had no idea what to do about that.

He asked what Mario’s last name was.  I told him that I didn’t know.  Everyone calls asks for “Mario”, but nobody has used Mario’s last name.  We were at an impasse.  So, he suggested that I listen to the voicemail that was left (again) and call back with the correct information about who called me.

That worked. I wrote down the name of the woman who called (looking for Mario) and the name of what she believed was Mario’s restaurant.  I called back, and got a different person from the call center, this time, a woman.  I gave her the name of the woman who called me, and left a voice message, and who was looking for Mario.  Eventually, after I gave her the name of the restaurant she mentioned in the voice mail, she agreed to remove my phone number from their information.

The last voice mail was from the “avocado guy” who called before.  He left a message for Mario to let Mario know that he had some more avocados for him.  I called him back and tried to explain that this phone number no longer belonged to Mario.

The “avocado guy” apologized and said he would try and get a hold of Mario’s new phone number.  Interestingly, the “avocado guy” explained that he was hoping to give Mario some avocados because Mario owns a restaurant – that is located in the town that I live in.

Desperately Seeking Mario is a post written by Jen Thorpe on Book of Jen and is not allowed to be copied to other sites.

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