I had just finished chatting with a well-known professor of international relations and security studies when my phone rang. Thinking he’d called back to ask a follow-up question, or to remind me of something, I immediately picked up the phone before the second ring. It was not to be. It was not him. It was not a voice I was familiar with. But instead, it was a female’s voice, and had simply called the “wrong number.” I don’t know anyone who has never dialed a wrong number. If you own a phone, sooner or later, you will call a wrong number.
Calling the wrong number can be amusing or embarrassing; it can also lead to pleasant encounters or unexpected friendship. In this instance and on this particular night, the telephonic encounter turned out to be pleasant and fruitful even though it cost me almost two hours of sleep. The conversation went something like this:
Caller: Hello, this is Amanda, is Williams there?
Me: Williams? What number are you trying to reach?
Caller: 202- 518-XXXX
Me: Oh, I am sorry; this is 202-518-XXXX…this is my place and my number
Caller: I am so sorry….I got the last digit wrong. I am sorry to have bothered you
Me: That’s ok…don’t worry…It wasn’t a bother…goodnight!
Caller: Aahhhh you speak with an inflection, sweet and soft…the Bahamas?
Me: No, not at all. I am an African, a Nigerian.
Caller: A Nigerian?
Me: Yes, I am a Nigerian…
Caller: Whao, two of my neighbors are Nigerians
Me: Really, where about are you calling from?
Caller: I live in Minneapolis, but currently vacationing in Norman, Oklahoma
Me: You must be kidding me…
Caller: Why is that?
Turns out I lived in the same neighborhood as hers when I lived in Minneapolis. I also happen to know Norman, Oklahoma very well. And so we went on and on and on and on about people and places and events and leisure pursuits and all that. We also touched on relationships and heartbreaks. And then she went away for three or four minutes to get a cup of coffee. I too took time off to get a bottle of water. When we resumed our conversation, she asked: “are you married or seeing anyone?” To which I responded, “No, I am not married…what do you mean by ‘seeing someone'”? I wanted the clarification because, well, I have two female “friends with benefits.”
She clarified her question. And I answered “No!” She chucked and then murmured: “By the way, what’s your name…and why in heavens name won’t you marry one of your “friends with benefit?” I answered the second question first before telling her my name. Then, there was silence. A deafening silence! Thinking the phone malfunctioned or that we were being disconnected, I kept repeating “hello…hello…hello are you there?” “Yes, yes, I am here…this is such a small world…you are Sabella? Are you for real? You are not kidding me, are you?
What followed was a barrage of questions about my essays — not my political commentaries, but about my social and anthropological commentaries — on sex, marriage, relationships, death, growing old and so on and so forth. The conversation was about to conclude when she asked: “Sabella, what type of woman are you looking, for marriage?” And so I reeled off my requirements:
Age: Between 29 and 39
Political Leaning: Liberal
Level of Education: At least a BA (prefers MA or PhD or equivalent)
Religion: Agnostic or Atheist
Body Type: Commensurate with height.
Height: Between 5.8” and 6.8”
Previous Marital Status: Open (with or without kids)
$$$$ Issue: Must not be swayed by the pursuit of money and material possessions
When I was finished, she asked: “Aside from your writing ability, what else would you bring to the table?
I spent the next 7-10 minutes tendering my “qualifications, characteristics and attributes.”
“Okay, let me get back to you on Monday,” she said.
I am waiting for Monday…